Copyright. ‘ It’s one of those issues in education that doesn’t go away. Whether it is the 1,000 pound elephant in the room no one wants to acknowledge or it’s the topic being policed with the kind of gusto most often left for sample sales. Copyright causes confusion, panic and in some cases, arguments. ‘ The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.’ ‘  But before we discuss a solution, let’s look at some real life scenarios:

Sometimes teachers and librarians address copyright issues with bold signs or posters.

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K Covintree, Independent School

“The most common issues around copyright that come up at the youth public library I work at is around content creation. Teens use a space called Studio i to create and edit videos including live action and stop motion animation. They also make beats and record their own music in the sound booth. You can probably imagine the issue of using original content comes up fairly frequently. While we don’t typically have formal workshops focused on copyright, we have information conversations all the time. If they need a photo to add to their video or want to add a popular song to a track we remind them that if it’s not something they own, they likely won’t be able to use it in the way that they want. We offer alternatives such as creating their own music, or show them where they can find default sound effects (if that’s what they’re looking for). Since we have a blue screen, they are able to get a bit more creative with their images and we introduce them to copyright free photos that are part of the software or creative commons sites online if they can’t find what they’re looking for. While we don’t necessarily stop them from leaving the room with their content if it is a copyright violation, we do our best to inform them of the rules/laws and consequences. Oftentimes they’ll return and wish they had taken better heed to our advice. It’s a continuting learning process for all.”
Kelly Czarnecki, Teen Services

After I witnessed gross copyright infringements at my academic library, I started to incorporate copyright lessons into my informational literacy programs. My challenges are threefold.’  First, my students don’t recognize that information and images on the Internet are copyrighted.’  Second, they don’t want to do the extra work to find the creator’s name, let alone cite the material. Finally, they have an incorrect assumption that if technology enables you to do something then you are allowed to do it. ‘ I have been most successful with getting students to think about the images that they use for power points not only as copyrighted material but also as someone’s creation. I show them how to find images through creative commons and other websites. Next I show them how to find who created the image and how to cite this in their presentation.’  If you use an image but forget where you got it, you can always find it again. You can drop the image into the Google search box and easily relocate it to get the pertinent information.’  My students are really impressed by this trick but I try to focus on teaching that the image is someone’s creation and it is easy to give them credit.

Then I answer the inevitable questions. If the website or creator didn’t want you to cut and paste the image why isn’t the image protected? ‘ How is someone going to know that I didn’t use a public domain image? Who cares if I use the whole movie and ignore the 10% rule? ‘ At this point, I turn the conversation to responsibility.’ ‘  Many creators want you to use their work but to use it correctly.’  It is as much the creator’s responsibility to uphold the copyright as it is the responsibility of the person using the creation.’  ‘ I want my students to take this responsibility seriously and I am not sure how to do this. Students often point out that their professors do not cite images on power points. Clearly, I need to do more training not just for students but also for faculty. I believe it is the librarian’s job to help uphold copyright and there are times that I’m daunted by this task.’  I’m always looking for advice and help in this area.
Mairead Duffy, College Librarian

So, if addressing copyright issues in your school makes you want to run to the nearest coat closest, then there is finally a resource for you. ‘  ALA Edition’s new ‘ Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators‘ addresses how copyright impacts schools in a clear, funny and practical manner. ‘ ‘ Author, Carrie Russel, had me with the first cartoon. ‘  Yes, that’s right. ‘ This usually dry-as-toast topic is given new life with humorous cartoons that illustrate common issues. ‘ But it’s not all jokes. ‘ The book addresses myths and misconceptions, the law and its impact on educators and even gives clear and concise advice. ‘ The book ends with a series of appendices that target topics like classroom copying, educational use of music, educational multimedia and copyrighted computer programs. ‘ Does this book contain a magic list to follow? ‘ No. ‘ But what it does do is give the reader the tools they need to think critically about every issue that arises on copyright. ‘ My favorite part? ‘ The list of four considerations to test every fair use question. ‘ What are they? ‘ I think I’ll leave that for the book.


One Thought on “The Copyright Quagmire

  1. Thank you so much for posting this! Copyrights and teenagers seem to be a big issue in the library that I work for. Many of them have only recently learned how to properly cite things and it can be hard for them to realize that books and website aren’t the only things you have to give credit to. I love the idea of the posters, as well as copyright lessons.

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