Copyright for Innovation

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Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall by Horia Varlan  CC-BY

A few weeks ago I attended a panel discussion about copyright and how fair use of media, copyrighted material promotes or inhibits creativity. It was hosted by the University of Auckland Law Department.

A panel of international experts on copyright and innovation led the discussion about copyright, fair use of intellectual property, open access and how it all works in the media, education and business.

Below is the Storify of the evening.

But how does all this apply to schools, teachers and students?

Mention copyright in staff rooms and people’s eyes usually glaze over.  The only real exposure most teachers have to it is in ignoring the poster over the photocopier warning them about what percentage of a book they can legally copy!  Some schools have a vigilant admin person who manages all the photocopying and enforces the rule strictly, in other schools the law may as well not exist.

Drama and music departments have a better understanding of copyright laws as it directly impacts the work they do.  Some media is available for use in an educational context but the limitation lies in that the content cannot be published or presented to the public. It may be possible to perform plays, use musical scores, sing songs within a school context to an audience composed of people within school, but as soon as you invite an outside audience in you may find yourself breaching the terms of the copyright unless you have sought permission to use it. (https://www.tki.org.nz/Copyright-in-Schools/Guidelines-for-schools/For-teachers-and-contractors/Guide-to-performances)

So far so clear.  But what about films? I know that films are used extensively to support learning in many subjects. They are also used as ‘end of term fillers’. The philosophical and pedagogical rights and wrongs of this I will not go into here. However, it is clear from the guidelines on the TKI page Guide to copying and showing films that the showing of films should be for educational purposes only.

“You may not show a hired or purchased video/DVD in your school simply for entertainment purposes. For example, you can show the film Shakespeare in Love when it relates to your drama course, but you may not show it to your drama class merely to entertain them at the end of term.”

And you cannot copy the film multiple times to enable every student to have their own copy, nor can you make it available on the school learning management system. Read more at Electronic copying and works on the internet.

OK, so all this is well and good, and the law is quite clear if we bother to find out about it and pay any attention to it.  But there are areas around use of media and ownership that are less clear (or more open to interpretation).

Who owns what you produce as a teacher for your students?  At any time of the day or night, term time or holidays?

The answer is simple: your employer. The Board of Trustees. Not you.

What does that mean?  It means that legally speaking anything that you create in the course of your employment has to stay in the place of your employment when you leave and you cannot take a copy of it with you. WHAT?!  My work, my time, my blood, sweat and tears, my creativity, my imagination!

How does not being able to share my work fit with Kāhui Ako (Communities of Learning)? How does it encourage collaboration across schools and between teachers? How does it encourage me to be creative, spend my time working on great resources if I can’t keep them? How will anyone know if I take a copy anyway? Who is going to stop me?

Well the answers are, it doesn’t and nobody. Unless you start to sell them and make megabucks, or if you take them and don’t leave a copy behind for your colleagues to use and they are left in the lurch.

So, how can I legally own what I feel I morally own because I created it?

A CREATIVE COMMONS policy provides teachers and schools with a way forward.  Put simply, if a school adopts a Creative Commons Policy, then the BOT maintains ownership of resources but agrees that those resources can be shared as long as they are shared under the same license.

So what about images and media that you and your students use in your work? How do I know who has created media on the internet? Who owns the photos in “Google Images”? How do I know what I can use and what I can’t? How do I attribute ownership?   Creative Commons provides answers there too. There is heaps of ‘free to use’ media if you know where to look.  In Google images, go to Tools and then Usage rights to get a return of open source images.  Photos4Class is a great one to send kids to as it inserts appropriate referencing too.  The Creative Commons website has a heap of links to open source resources as well as useful information on how to appropriately attribute and reference media you have used.  Saying “Retrieved from Google Images” just doesn’t cut it!  Or take your own photos and use them and apply a Creative Commons License. Encourage your kids to be creators rather than consumers.

Nobody is very likely to prosecute you if you use an image or a piece of music that is not yours to use unless you are particularly unlucky. Although, there are plenty of examples when that has happened, especially where music is concerned. And I have heard plenty of teachers and students say, “But how will anyone know if I have used a photo, a video, a piece of music?” and “Why should I care?” and “Will anyone really stop me?”

But it comes down to trust, to values, ethics and morals. The values of citizenship that we instil into our kids, that are enshrined in our school charters, that we live and work by everyday.  Taking what is not legally yours without asking permission is theft. Pure and simple.  Using media that is created by someone else without attributing it to them is just bad manners and shows lack of gratitude. And as educators we have a responsibility to model good practice.