Thursday, October 25, 2007

Considering Copyright

Only a few short years ago, breaking copyright was much more difficult. Students had to copy out of books and encyclopedia by hand or at best type text out on a typewriter. Teachers could defy copyright with the use of a photocopier. Homes did not contain photocopiers so breach of copyright occurred mainly in schools, libraries and businesses where photocopiers were located. Other types of media were also difficult or imposible to copy. In my high school days, cassette tapes could be made from record albums or the radio.

Nowadays, people have ready and immediate access to the same type of media as the original so copyright is extremely easy to violate. A CD or DVD can be burned or ripped to another disque. People readily own the equipment to do this in their home. Because of the amount of print information available on computers, students can copy and paste "stolen" text into the same medium they use to do homework and hand in assignments. No transposition is required. Many students do not even understand what plagerism is or what to do to avoid it. Many teachers do not have a good grasp of it either or what copyright regulations and laws really allow and prohibit.

I find a lot of confusion between what is allowable under 'fair use' in the U. S. in comparison to Canada. It is difficult to keep the two separated and straight. I use to console my conscience that I could use anything for educational purposes as long as I credited my sources. Sort of an It 's-all-so-complicated-but-at-least-I'm-making-an-effort attitude. Not very responsible I'm afraid.

In my work in the library, I find it most difficult to deal with student use of images and pictures. They seem more willing to try to understand copyright when dealing with text - take jot notes, try to substitute their own words, credit sources, etc. But images and photos are used willy nilly for art projects, added to reports, used on posters, added to PowerPoint presentations, and so on. This week I have added a link to my library home page offering copyright friendly images (a link to our class wiki amoung others!). I am pessimistic it will see any use - Google images is just too easy and what repercussions does the student ever experience anyway?

How do we instill a "copyright conscience" in teachers and students?

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