Copyright, Fair Usage & Our Obligation as Educators

Respect is one of life’s fundamental virtues. It means accepting the views of others. It can be hard when we think we know better. As educators we do our best to instill this virtue in our students. As an individual it is an area I must admittedly continue to develop.

As an educational technology specialist I want as deep a digital footprint as possible. I want to be found so share as a matter of course to manage this important part of my public life. Often when faced with contradictory opinions that impact on my ability to do so I admittedly become a little agitated. I always feel that, from an informed perspective, any rational person in the digital-age would understand. Not, perhaps, very respectful.

I am learning though. In my new role as the director of technology at “technology curious” school I am daily faced with the opportunity to develop this skill further. A perfect case in point would be at the recent coffee morning I was asked to run to inform interested parents about my new role and the use of technology at the school in general. After my incredibly engaging and informative (bias alert) presentation I performed a little scene to drive home my point about digital footprint management and respecting the rights of others.

Parent Address 1 ELCI asked the Principal to play along and take a camera to the back of the hall. I asked if any of the parents objected to the backs of their heads being published on the internet. (None did.) I then asked for a photograph of myself posing as the presenter and shared my thoughts (above) about digital footprint management and self-promotion. Everyone shook their head in agreement. Great, right?

But then came the real lesson (along with evidence of my very own growth as a respecter of ideals other than my own). I then told everyone that, had I asked for the photo to be taken with a different slide presented, say, one of a photograph of a child or one of a child’s graphic representations of their project work, it would not have been usable if I wished to protect the school’s belief in absolute privacy on both of these fronts.

Now, some further elaboration of my own thoughts, beefed up by citation to the thoughts of others.

As many have pointed out copyright is largely an outmoded legal concept created before the proliferation of the Internet. Organized forward-thinkers, like those at Creative Commons, have started the ball rolling on a freer version of some rights reserved as a response to this fact. The idea being that non -commercial use of material (one would hope especially for educational purposes) in the world of the digital open-source movement would better serve, well, basically everyone. With big companies liked Wired magazine getting on board the movement appears to be gaining momentum.

Our Obligation as Educators
We have a responsibility as educators to teach respect for copyright in the classroom, as outlined in the International Society for Technology in Education‘s NETS for Educators. Modeling is perhaps one of the most effective and purposeful methods by which we can teach anything. As such, however, I believe it is important that it starts with the school NETS for administrators. Policy needs to be in place outlining expectations in order for consistent, meaningful application. Many schools currently take no stand on the issue leaving it largely up to the classroom teacher but schools have the responsibility for setting the scene.

Fair Use
This is where most of us end up. We must decide for ourselves just how far we go in obtaining permission to use other people’s work. If I use a Van Halen song in an Animoto slide show for my class and put it on YouTube am I a criminal? I think not. If I sell tickets to a viewing of work from my classrooms over the years, using nothing else and make a profit I have probably crossed a line, easily provable should I get caught. Sell copies of DVD’s used and who wouldn’t find for the record company?

To borrow authority I will now defer to Stanford University Libraries’ Copyright and Fair Use Center site dealing with copyright and fair usage which states, “Fair use is a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for purposes of commentary and criticism. For example, if you wish to criticize a novelist, you should have the freedom to quote a portion of the novelists work without asking permission. Absent this freedom, copyright owners could stifle any negative comments about their work.”

Case in Point
Having studied the importance of urban green spaces in Social Studies and formal writing in Literacy lessons recently it seemed a natural outcome to marry these new understandings (from the former) with our developing skills (from the latter) in order to embed the use of digital technology through the use of an MS Publisher template to produce pamphlets promoting the parks designed by these small groups of sixth graders. We further had to learn how to print them double-sided within the page margins not to lose any of the design aesthetic or obscure important information. Students then converted their edited work to PDF format for publication on their blogs. We turned the whole thing into a contest to see which park the rest of the elementary school would choose to have built in Chiba where the school resides.

The whole thing about copyright comes in to play here. I gave the students carte blanche. There was no mention of copyright infringement or citation made prior to the creation of these promotional materials. The students made beautiful brochures and we are set for our contest. Now, I could leave it here, dust off my hands and cry, “Fair usage!” After all, no money was made or lost. No one was defamed and, even when I try to publish the the lot with an explanation on the school website for promotional purposes, I dare say no one will ever be the wiser. What a lost opportunity that would be. I have plans for the students to now go back and make a list of references for their work to reinforce the notion of how important it is to do so whenever planning on using other people’s work from the outset.

Don’t blame the students. It’s my job to see that they ask these questions. Truth be told this whole citation after the fact lesson came out of necessity. My plan for the pamphlets was to use Creative Commons but the site has been out of service for some time now! Hey, I’m a teacher… I thrive on innovation and work-arounds. On the plus side, I have to say that when I shared my online free book, The Sharing Tree, inspired by Shel Silverstein’s The Giving TreeI was taken to task for my own copyright infringement. Another teachable moment put to good use and a rewarding discussion had. The details I will leave to your imagination.

Are You Interested in Becoming a Published Bestseller?

About Sean Thompson

Sean is an educational technology specialist at Sacred Heart International School in Tokyo. He travels extensively across southeast Asia speaking, presenting and participating in discussions regarding the effective integration of technology in an educational setting. In 2014 he partnered up with DEEP Learning to support the team with the development, promotion and execution of professional development conferences for teachers worldwide. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader , a Google education Trainer and a Certified Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
This entry was posted in Digital Learning and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Copyright, Fair Usage & Our Obligation as Educators

  1. Ros walker says:

    Worth bearing in mind that the USA uses ‘fair use’ but in the UK, we have ‘fair dealing’:

  2. Thank you Ros. Duly noted!

    BTW, I am a Sheffield graduate myself (2011)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s