Saturday, May 9, 2009

Copyright Confusion

Do we as a global society need to rethink copyright laws?

I had always thought that I had a basic understanding of what copyright should mean to me as a student and teacher, for years thinking of the subject in black and white terms. Whatever applied to my needs was surely outlined with straightforward rules and guidelines. Now I find the copyright and fair use regulations sending me adrift through a vast sea of gray -- and with a great deal of confusion, major contributors to which are the increased volume and variety of creative work produced and its easy availability via the Internet.

Expecting the general public, global society, to adhere to rules that are confusing and seemingly contradictory at best, is an exercise in futility. If the copyright law is to succeed in what it was initially established to do, “protect works of intellectual property” and remain in line with the values of the First Amendment of the US, “emphasizing that sharing ideas and information leads to new knowledge and innovation,” the global society will need more common understanding and agreements regarding its rules and regulations.

The Creative Commons organization has opened the door to the increased sharing and access of intellectual property by making it easier for owners to release some of the rights regarding the use and distribution of their work and making it easier for users to have access to those works.

What's our role as educators in copyright usage in schools?

Doug Johnson speaks from the viewpoint of a media specialist or, as he refers to himself, a Copyright Counselor. He puts forth the idea that the focus of copyright instruction should be “changed from what is forbidden to what is permitted.” He points out that educators often “over-comply with copyright law, and even forgo using legitimate teaching tools and techniques for fear of violating copyright,” hence the need for educators to be knowledgeable of the Fair Use Doctrine.

Our role as educators is to make the rules of copyright as clear as possible for our students. Teaching by example as often as possible is the most effective way. Johnson points out that students are mostly uninformed and that the more they are made aware of the laws, the more their attitudes toward illegal downloading and copying will be affected. Once students are able to think of the copyright guidelines from the point of view of the producer and consumer, they will be more able to approach the problem with mature attitudes. Johnson points out that “as students become content creators themselves,” they become more likely to develop empathy toward other content creators.

Does ISBs AUP take this issue into account?

Copyright is referred to in ISB’s AUP, but copyright is a very large umbrella covering a lot of territory. Can it be fully addressed in one policy?


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