Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tackling the big guns

"Drawing that explains copyright law' Erik J. Heels, CC

Over the last few weeks our year 11's are finalising their MYP personal projects. I supervise two students who are doing quite different projects. They were coming to the end of it all and were showing me their almost finished work which were both of an excellent standard.

As a supervisor I give feedback and suggestions on improvements to ensure they meet the criteria they set themselves and to make sure they are on track. It is a great way to connect with students at this year level and of course help them understand a few 'rules' of copyright.

Both the students had used copyright material - one was a number of photographs inserted in his online magazine, the other background music for her documentary video by a well known band.

As we were going through the projects I mentioned that they were using material that was infringing on copyright - even under the fair use clause which is quite generous for educational uses. They mentioned that they had cited the source so didn't that mean they could use it? I explained how fair use worked and then suggested the students just ask permission of the creators to use the work for their project, seeing that both projects were going to be published on the internet, they may just be caught out.

We went through the process of writing the letters and sending them off. The student who wanted to use a Getty image received a reply that he could use it for $390USD. He then replied with more information about the project, including that it would have limited circulation and would only be used in this project. They replied with a 10% discount. We discussed his options of using a different image that was available under creative commons - we couldn't find one that was suitable. We then explored media images and he could not find anything that he felt was suitable, so he chose to remove the image completely from the page. He used images from other sources throughout the magazine and cited them as is allowed under the fair use clause.

The other student with the music as background music did not receive a reply, so we then explored other avenues including creative commons. She found a cover of the same track which she felt was quite good. I explained that the music itself is also under copyright, however, due to her diligence of trying to work through this issue, we felt the cover was a good compromise.

What did we learn from this? While trying to do the right thing the processes are not in place to  allow people to request permission and some organisations are not willing to allow educational use under any circumstance. We also learned that we need more work to be licensed under creative commons so that students know up front if they can use them in their work, and to have a wider choice of media to use.

We need to be educating students about these issues so their are not surprises, and we need to be teaching them about licensing their own work under creative commons. These were authentic learning experiences for the two students, and although we did try to do the right thing, doing the right thing was not the easiest route. It makes it very clear why so much copyright property is used without permission.

I have created a resource page on copyright issues if you want to explore further about these. I would also recommend you watch the 87 minute documentary  "RIP! A remix Manifesto" found linked on the 'more resources' page on the above website.

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