Reflection Paper: Copyright Law and Our Obligations
Copyright law hangs in a delicate balance between fair use and violation. As a school library teacher, it falls to me to do much of the teaching in regards to copyright law.
Two practices mentioned in this article that I would integrate into my teaching are “change the focus of copyright instruction from what’s forbidden to what’s permitted” (which I think is very much connected to the second point of “When there’s doubt, err on the side of the user”) and “teach copyright from the point of view of the producer, as well as the consumer.” I think that these two practices can be very helpful in mitigating the confusion that many teachers and students likely have about copyright law.
Firstly, the change of focus in copyright instructions should begin very early on for students, and should be a constant reminder for teachers. The main focus of this change should be reminding “students and colleagues know that it’s perfectly legal to use copyrighted materials in research, if they’re properly cited and supplement, rather than supplant, one’s own work” (Johnson). This means that if a student quotes an article and cites it, it is ok in the realm of copyright, but also if a teacher finds a new idea for a classroom presentation, it is also ok as long as it is a supplement and not taken as the whole of the teacher’s work. I think that if teachers cite where they found information, it will help students learn when it is important to cite. As a school librarian, I would remind both students and teachers about the importance of citing information in all cases, but also stress that they are allowed to use information, especially in research. This would help eliminate the fear of copyright infringement and also allow teachers and students to broaden their research horizons. It is possible that teachers could find new information on lessons they already teach and be able to collaborate with teachers in different parts of the state. This will only enhance the students’ education.
Secondly, I would reach out to teachers and students about Creative Commons. My students, and probably my colleagues as well, will be very familiar with copying or downloading information, such as movies and music. However, with the creation of Creative Commons, I would be able to teach from the perspective of not just an end-user, but a creator as well. From this perspective, it would be easier to teach the importance of copyright. After all, if a student is proud enough of a work to publish it online, they would likely be proud enough to want recognition of their hard work from others who read and borrow from or quote it. Once students understand this, they will probably be more likely to consider when they should or should not share information or other works that they did not create. “Only when students begin to think about copyright and other intellectual property guidelines from the point of view of the producer as well as the consumer, can they form mature attitudes and act in responsible ways when questions about these issues arise. And as an increasing number of students become content creators, this should be an easier concept to help them grasp” (Johnson).
In this digital age, paying attention to copyright is important, but as Johnson points out, it is better to err on the side of the user. I would add that this is especially important in education. There is some wonderful content out there, and knowledge needs to be shared.
Reflection Paper: Copyright Law and Our Obligations by Allegra D'Ambruoso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.