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.