During yesterday’s CoETaIL class, we discussed copyright, Fair Use and Creative Commons. We had some great conversations about what copyright really is and what kinds of work (turns out all kinds!) educators can use in preparation of lessons and curriculum. Plus, I was so excited to see one of the members of my PLN, Kristen Hokanson, featured in one of the video case studies we watched (I think that was the first time I’ve heard Kristen’s voice, actually).
In discussing copyright with my colleagues, and thinking about the future of “ownership” of ideas, I’m thinking that we’re going to see already seeing society value free sharing over the legalities of restricted ownership. Much the way teachers and librarians panicked about the free authorship of wikipedia and the way record companies are floundering about the electronic distribution of music, the benefits of freely sharing ideas will certainly outweigh any attempts to retain the traditional, heirarchical structure of copyright.
The same way the iPod and iTunes eclipsed the record industry’s long established system for the distribution of music, Creative Commons (and others freely sharing their works) will eclipse the machinery of the old industries. Already it seems that only those who benefit from the retention of restrictive copyright laws are interested in perpetuating this outdated system.
Even if, as a society, we decided to re-think copyright laws, I don’t know if it’s even necessary. It’s so clear that the culture of remixing, mashups, and selecting to share, will cause a paradigm shift that will soon overshadow any attempts to retain such rigid structures. After all, we only need to examine the way the younger generation views copyright (ask them, they’ll tell you!). Soon enough, they’ll be the ones “in charge.”
There was a time when non-priests were not allowed to read the Bible, and then innovations, like the printing press, put formerly restricted knowledge into the hands of the “masses.” Society didn’t decide as a whole that this was acceptable or preferred, it just happened.
As educators, we need to be aware of the way these types of societal trends may shape or change the way we use, access and create information and ideas. For me, I prefer to expose students to Creative Commons as an empowering example of how we can all be part of a shared vision for the future, how we can all benefit from the expertise and creativity of others, and how we can truly support and value independent thinkers and artists.
I am also committed to discussing and understanding with students the ease with which technology allows us to “borrow” someone else’s work – and how important it is to give credit to the original work. One of my wonderful colleagues, Susi, explained in our small-group discussion that our idea of right and wrong is firmly developed by age 7 (further reinforcing my belief that lower elementary is the place to start having these conversations).
We need to be modeling attribution, and talking about what “stealing” looks like online, and how easy it is to give proper attribution so that students truly understand why it is so important. It can be difficult for students to understand that attribution of an idea to someone else makes your work even more powerful – you’re demonstrating you’ve done your research, you’re building on anothers’ idea and you’re able to combine the experience and expertise of others into your own original thoughts.
Interestingly, after taking another look at ISB’s Elementary School Acceptable Use Policy, copyright is only specifically addressed in relation to software (ie: no pirated software allowed – a major problem here in Thailand). I wonder why we aren’t specifically outlining expectations for using information or creative works?
What do you think of copyright?