The Contentious Issue of Copyright!


copyright_symbol1Do you use recordings of television and radio programmes in the classroom? Does your limited budget mean that you cannot afford to buy resources? Instead, do you download music and film clips from the web, copy DVDs or photocopy texts? Do you file share with colleagues in other schools/institutions/countries? Do your students use Internet material in their project work?

Many normal activities both inside and outside the classroom depend on the use of literature, music, film and art, in their many manifestations. Often these works are protected by copyright, and those who created them are dependent upon being paid for the use of their works for their livelihood. After all, the creative industries make a valuable contribution to the economy of our country and employ a substantial part of our workforce.

File sharing is not necessarily illegal, even if the works being shared are covered by copyright. For example, some artists may choose to support freeware, shareware, open source, or anti-copyright, and advocate the use of file sharing as a free promotional tool. However, you need to be aware of how legislation affects the use of images, audio and moving images taken from the Internet and other sources. Websites and VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) are elaborate notice boards, full of text and images, with content usually provided by staff, students and parents. If they include material from other sites or providers without permission, they could be in serious trouble. For example, photographers and photo agencies can use specially designed software to trace their pictures, and alert them when it appears on the Internet. If prior permission from the publisher to use their material has not been gained, then there could be a breach of copyright and action maybe taken.

The confusion for many may come from thinking that a lot of digital content is all right to use under the ‘education’ umbrella. This may well be the case within the classroom as part of a lesson or student study, but when that content is used on websites, VLEs, or as part of a swapped lesson plan, then teachers are facilitating the free re-distribution of those images.

My own company provides school site licenses as part of the cost of a resource. This means that the school can use the digital content on every computer/whiteboard and photocopy worksheets for every student. BUT sharing any of that content outside a school by whatever means, is an infringement of copyright.

The educational resource content market is driven by small companies how can suffer greatly in income from illegal coping, and if these producers of quality educational resources go out of business what is education left with? - Poor quality inappropriate materials and a waste of valuable teacher time, struggling to produce their own. These days students are sophisticated consumers of content, so if given poor content, poor work is the outcome.

Each educational establishment is responsible for adhering to copyright licenses, and that means every teacher/lecturer may be culpable. Many exploit existing material by copying, sharing and making derivative works. You may think you are teaching with well illustrated with digital content, but the lesson learnt by pupils might be about unethical practice and pirating.

AND it’s not just about third party content – how protected is your original content? Resources you have worked on for hours and put on the website or intranet, free for anyone else to capture and use without your permission?

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Many thanks for you patience.
Kind regards,
Mike - Media4ed.

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