Copyright Headache

Copyright is a subject I both want to talk about and fear both at the same time. I’m interested in learning about it because I believe it is important to set a positive example to my students. Since I was a kid the idea of copyright in the classroom has been drilled into my head. I remember hearing stories of music teachers who had made multiple copies of sheet music because the school didn’t have the funding to provide enough legitimate copies. However, there was a rumor that companies were starting to crack down copyright, which led to further rumors of teachers burning the extra copies.

While I cannot verify of the above example is true or not, it does help to illustrate my fear of copyright in general. Don’t get me wrong I understand the ideas behind copyright but what thoroughly confuses me are the practical applications within the classroom. As I went through my education program the 10% mantra was hammered into my head. But as I was reading this might not be the case.

Technology is now changing the game but the law of the land is slow to respond. For example video streaming sites like megavideo and videobb, have become increasingly popular over the last several years. These sites are similar to YouTube in that users will upload material into the site and people who wish to view it stream it in their browser (if you’re on a free account there is a daily time limit). What is the legality of someone who is simply viewing this content? Are they technically breaking the law? How do the rules apply in other countries? What about using streamed content within the classroom? Am I supposed to report material that is illegally uploaded to streaming site?  How do I know if a particular video violates copyright?

As you can probably guess I like the idea of copyright because it helps to protect both the creator of a piece of work and the work itself.  I would like to conduct myself in a manner that is considered legal. Not only to ensure that my school or I do not get hauled into court but also because I think it is important to teach students how to ethically use and share material in a manner that is similar to other situations.

Do I believe that teachers should teach students about copyright and how to use different materials ethically? Yes I do. However, education programs and schools need to begin placing greater emphasis by offering courses and ongoing training to ensure that teachers are kept up to date with the latest information.

The issue of respecting copyright gets completely thrown up in the air when working in a setting where the laws are not available in English. While I may be able to find English explanations of the laws of western countries, I struggle to find the same information here in Japan. Not only is access to information difficult, but actually understanding the laws can prove difficult understand. How am I supposed to enforce the laws if they are not presented in a manner that is easy to understand?

The issue of respecting copyright gets completely thrown up in the air when working in a setting where the laws are not available in English. While I may be able to find English explanations of the laws of western countries, I struggle to find the same information here in Japan. Not only is access to information difficult, but actually understanding the laws can prove difficult understand.  How am I supposed to enforce the laws if they are not presented in a manner that is easy to understand?

Copyright is a complex issue and it requires further exploration and reevaluation.  While there may be a lot of confusion over what exactly is breaking copyright laws, there is one shining light in it all.  The Creative Commons movement makes it clear how people may use different works.  The movement also makes it easier for creators of work to clearly explain how their work can be used.  Since being introduced to it, it has helped saved me from several sleepless night.  While it may be a bit harder to find an image or video that I am want to use, when compared to just looking in Google, at least I can easily tell how I may use that work.

Image Credits:

Copyright Symbols by MikeBlogs found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed

Video Credits

The Florence Kelley Project – A Discussion on Library and Technology uploaded to YouTube by NorthwesternU

Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon posted on Ted.com March 2010

 

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3 Comments

Filed under COETAIL, Course 2

3 responses to “Copyright Headache

  1. One of the aims of Creative Commons is to simplify copyright. They, too, understand the importance of the creator having the right to distribute their own work when and where they would like to, but that copyright as a term and a legal responsibility has become so cumbersome and confusing that just hearing it makes us cringe. Although sometimes I can’t avoid using copyright material (legally), I actually prefer to use Creative Commons. I know who created the work, how they want it to be shared and how to credit them. That’s a type of copyright I can understand.

  2. Hi Brendan,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I liked the Alan Siegel TedTalks video on your site, what he said certainly resonated with how I see Creative Commons. It is so nice and refreshing to see in “plain English” what photos I can use and how I can use them. His example of how the US Government/Congress overuses/misuses words creates unneeded misunderstandings is certainly true.

    I liked your story as well about how music teachers at your school had to possibly burn their student’s music sheets so to not violate copyright law. This story certainly sheds another light on the copyright issue, the story of how some are forced to not follow copyright laws in schools due to their schools simply not having the proper amount of money to support it’s teachers and students.

    The New York Times recently posted a story about how 3-D printing will be the next big copyright issue. Have a look, am sure this will affect schools as well when we start to get/use 3-D printers: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/disruptions-the-3-d-printing-free-for-all/?scp=1&sq=copyright%20laws&st=cse

    • Thank you for the kind words David. I was intrigued by the article and the differentiation it makes between works that are purely artistic and works that have practical value. Clearly this line can at times be very thin at times. I’m also intrigued by the possibilities that 3D printing offers, will we eventually get to the point where we can print things that are more complex and have them work (like a computer). This is starting to remind me of the bread-maker maker that was on The Simpsons about 10 years ago.

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