Copyright in the Digital Classroom


Raise your hand if you’ve ever copied and pasted an image  into a presentation?  How about if you’ve ever assigned your students to create a presentation and they’ve copied and pasted an image?  Let’s face it, we’ve all done it and probably never gave it a second thought.  Copyright has got to be one of the least appealing things to think about, much less teach about.  However, it is necessary.  My next series of posts will focus on copyright in the digital classroom and how to get your students interested in it.

Actually, let’s start there:  how to get your students interested in complying with copyright.  Picture this:  A teacher is excited to share a short story she found in a book and begins reading.  A student in the back of the classroom realizes that it’s her story being read and gets very upset because someone else is taking credit.  Here’s another one:  An art teacher shares that she entered a drawing into a local contest and won $100 for first place.  When she shows the picture, one of the students realizes that it’s his picture his teacher entered.  How do you think these students would react?  How would you react if someone tried to take credit for something that you worked hard on?  I’m imagining not too graciously, especially if there’s money involved.  This is what copyright is all about; allowing individuals to make a living from their creative works.  Making it personal for your students will definitely get them interested.

You may be wondering why I’d take up space on an instructional technology blog about copyright.  Well, when I completed my self-assessment on the new Technology Facilitator Evaluation Instrument for the state of North Carolina at the beginning of the year, I realized that I was one of those copier and pasters mentioned above that gave no though to where the images were coming from, who created them, and how much money they were losing.  “Oh there’s a watermark there, well if I make the image small enough on the screen, no one will notice it.”  I’m not sure I had that thought consciously, but it was there.  I realized that if I’m creating all of these presentations to share with teachers and students, I needed to model ethical behavior, and I knew that if someone tried to steal my work I wouldn’t be too happy.  And that’s what I was doing: stealing.  As teachers, we have to be good role models, and making an effort to comply with copyright laws will show our students that it is important.  In addition, the quick availability of images and media online make it way too easy for people (teachers and students) to simply copy and paste information.

That’s why I’ve chosen to spend some time on the topic.  Over the next few posts, I’ll share information on Fair Use and Public Domain, we’ll explore the Creative Commons initiative, and I’ll share plenty of resources so that you and your students can feel safe knowing that you’re copyright compliant.  No one wants to pay a fine for hosting an image too long on a class website (a NC teacher just recently had to pay $1000 fine for hosting an image one day too long on her website).  Listed below are some websites to help you get started on getting your students (and you) interested in copyright.  Do you have other resources you use?  Have you had an experience where you, a colleague, or student was caught infringing on copyright?  What happened?  Please share in the comments below.

Copyright Kids                                            Taking the Mystery Out of Copyright

Teaching Copyright                                   YouTube Copyright School

Want to know about copyright in the digital classroom?  Check out these other posts.

Fair Use

Public Domain

Creative Commons

Copyright, Teacher Websites, and Student Projects