Copy, right? or Copyright?

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The copyright laws right now are very vague with online material and have room for a lot of discrepancies, but I feel there is a moral sense to help our students know right from wrong. I’ve recently been doing a project with my students that has them showing their understanding from the unit in the format of a graphic novel. MANY of them were in disbelief when I didn’t accept their first drafts. Quite a few groups were able to locate where they got their information and pictures from. They did a great job of gathering the information and putting it into their own words, but straight out took the pictures in their project from various sites without knowing if it was ok to use. They didn’t even think twice about it.

We talked about copyright and why is it not ok to just take pictures from someone’s site and use it without permission. I gave them the example of the family in Missouri that were surprised to find out that their Christmas photo was being used for advertisements in the Czech Republic and the fashion student that discovered her photo on a line of clothing. They could all see that it was wrong to take something without permission and mass reproduce it, or reproduce it for profit, but we totally fine with taking something if it was: 1) for a school related purpose and/or 2) going to be altered.

Lawrence Lessig says it best in his video: Re-examining the Remix, “We are different from our kids. We made mixed tapes, they remix music. We watched TV, they make TV.” Should we have the right to use content online to recreate new material to help us interpret and understand the world around us? Kids in my class today think so.

Musicians are horrible at this. Music artist have been sampling bits and pieces from each other for over 200 years. What makes it ok for them? Why can someone today throw a little bit of Chopin into their rap song and it’s acceptable? Why can’t someone be able to find pictures online and use it to create something new? This is the tricky part of copy right law that’s getting a lot of people into trouble.

I looked closely at creative commons and discussed the different levels of usage and what they meant with my students. They went back over their projects and used photos that were deemed ok to use. Quite a few of the students went a different route. In order to be safe they either used photobooth or another program to push themselves creatively and make their own pics that went along with the topic.

I feel that I do have an obligation in my classroom to make my students look at where they are getting their information, assess what’s fair to use, and give credit to those who let you use it. Getting the students to think about this is a huge step for my current class. I remind them over and over that it’s better to be safe than sorry.

5 thoughts on “Copy, right? or Copyright?

  1. Hi Jo! I agree that we need to get students thinking more about this, and I feel it is part of my job to help them do this as well. I teach second grade and right now I am trying to find the best way to approach this so it makes sense to 7 and 8 year olds. We recently completed a project on Japan and the students chose images from the Internet to enhance their projects. This is the second year my team has completed this project with the students, but we haven’t discussed copyright or fair use before. This course has made me realize that we really need to discuss this with our students starting as early as possible. I am now working backwards with my students and we are taking a look at the images they used in their projects. It’s turned out to be a great place to start the discussion of copyright with my second graders.

    • It’s great to hear that you’re starting with second grade students. I too believe the younger we have them thinking about what pictures they’re grabbing the more it will become ingrained in them. This would also need to be a school wide policy that supports this in each classroom.

  2. Hi Joe, I enjoyed reading your blog post, and it sparked a few thoughts in me. I liked how you were incorporating a discussion about these issues into your class. It’s interesting to see how the students differentiate what they are using the pictures for from businesses and such, because while that may be true up to a point, with the ease of publishing online these days, they might nevertheless offend, even if they didn’t profit from it. From a politeness perspective, I saw one interesting idea from a teacher, who had students upload all the pictures from a school trip to a common directory. Then when students made videos about the trip, they could use each others’ photos, but they had to give attribution. This made them a bit more motivated to give attribution (when the author might be sitting right next to them), and appreciate more how it is nice to give credit. Just a simple idea to introduce this idea of ownership and asking for permission.

  3. I like the idea of having them attribute each other’s pics. I’m definitely going to use that after our class camping trip next fall. Start with personal work and people they know and then move to faceless others on the web. Thanks.

  4. Joe, I really like the links you included that show how people’s images are being used worldwide without permission, even by large companies. I occasionally upload my photos to Flickr and mark them all for sharing except ones that I am in! I’d prefer that I’m in the know if someone wants to splash my image everywhere! Of course, education is the only way to help motivate students and others to legally reuse images found on the web.

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