My Copyright Ignorance

Doug's recent post, Resources for Copyright Literacy, was very timely. How to effectively teach kids about the issues of intellectual property and the concept of copyright has been hampered by my practical ignorance in this area. I've always known that copying slabs of other people's written content was both morally and legally wrong but in the past, I always figured that unless the words "copyright", "all rights reserved" or © appeared, then that work was fair game to be used however one pleased. I actually thought to be protected by copyright, that it had to be stated up front or you had no rights at all. So, after checking out Doug' del.icio.us links, I now have a great set of resources to use with my students. I also received a complimentary copy of The Education Technology Guide at last week's Marc Prensky's seminar. It contained an article by Gibb Owen, a Sydney based solicitor titled What is "Intellectual Property" and "Industrial Property"? This helped to make things really clear to me including a pretty good definition of "fair use". In the spirit of fair use (ie. I'm reviewing his article), some segments are worth quoting.

It would be wise for a teacher to always create and develop copyright works and / or inventions away from the place of employment using only his own time, resources or capital So that there is a clear division between the activities of a teacher as an employee and his activities as a private person.

My take on this - don't blog on school time or DECS [insert employer of your our choice here] could claim intellectual ownership! Seriously, the idea of separating what is part of your work and what you want to develop to be used beyond that in a wider sense is a good one. E-portfolios and presentations developed for conferences or workshops spring to mind.
And I like this definition:

Intellectual property is property that is created and held in the mind but most likely expressed in a material form.

So now my understanding is that Creative Commons is an elective softening of the rights you automatically get as part of copyright. So this blog was automatically protected by copyright before I put my Creative Commons licence on the site. Which is a world away from some of my teaching colleagues who encourage kids to use images without any form of citation, who believe if there's no copyright symbol or statement then it is open slather. (Admittedly, I was just as ignorant not so long ago.) And I can understand why teachers turn a blind eye to the breaching of copyright - the concept is hard to explain to younger students, all the good quality images are © and it's so hard to find public domain images, we're only using for educational purposes not commercial. There's also a bit of a culture in Australian schools that "copying is OK". There's been many a page copied out of books designed to be sold as separate student workbooks and a handy page on a bookseller's display ends up on the photocopier at recess time and in a teacher's resource collection by lunch. A fellow coordinator who writes textbooks for an educational publisher says he regularly receives royalty payments from honest New Zealand but the income from an much more populous Australian market is negligible. So, just like so many issues facing us in this age of easy access to resources, we need to inform and educate our educators before they can be expected to pass on these important concepts and issues surrounding "intellectual property."

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