Friday, September 28, 2012

Copyright Done Right

Image Credit:
Okay, so I highly doubt (although I have no conclusive evidence either way) that the penguin has it right.

However, as educators, we at times take an all-or-nothing approach to adhering to copyright.  Some of us are so afraid of copyright laws (and killing kittens) that we stifle not only our own creativity but that of our students. On the other hand, some of us work under the assumption that what we "borrow" is considered "fair use" when used under the education umbrella.  The problem with this is remaining at polar ends of the copyright spectrum causes us to lose out on a host of valuable learning opportunities for our students as developing digital citizens. So, let's figure out what we can do.

Difference Between Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright. The laws aim to protect the Constitutional right of citizens by "securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive rights to their respective writings and discoveries."  The laws were relatively straight forward until the inclusion of the Fair Use Doctrine.

Fair Use. When we use a certain amount of an original work for purposes other than profit, that could be considered "fair use."  For example, if I wanted to quote a scholar in research or some type of publication (like this blog), I long as I gave that scholar credit and there is no profit potential.  Likewise, if students took a piece of original work and completely transformed that work to make it substantially different than the original, that could be considered "fair use."

What about using music as soundtracks? The answer would be a murky no. This is not considered "fair use" because it neither drastically transforms the original nor does it eliminate the potential for profit in the end product. 

No one I know intends to break copyright laws. It is, however, imperative that when we encourage and instruct our students in integrating technologies into project-based lessons that we also take the time to incorporate copyright awareness.  We can avoid a lot of potential hassles with these options:
  1. Instruct students so they have a complete understanding of copyright law and how fair use works.
  2. Direct students (and yourself) to public domain, or Creative Commons, media sites
  3. Share finished work widely and wildly because everything is either an original student work or it contains fragments of copyright-free media.
Creative Commons.  This organization helps creators of all forms of media share and collaborate on their works while protecting their rights as creators. Those using Creative Commons (this includes teachers and students) can license their work and decide how it will be shared.  When we use Creative Commons, we know that creators have already given permission to use their work.

One thing is certain: Don't completely elminate the use of music or images in student work. While it may seem the safe route, it doesn't teach our students the responsibilities that accompany living in a digital world. And who knows?  We may actually save some kittens in the process.

Click here for my growing collection of Copyright-Free Media on my Resources to Share Page. Share your comments to add to the resource!

Yours in Tech,

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