Copy-right or copy-wrong or copy-out-of-date?

Doug Johnson over at Blue Skunk Blog has been tackling one of the “sacred cows” of librarianship – copyright. First he started with, “If I can’t get it legally is it OK to steal it?”, this resulted in 20 comments and then he posted “Does the intangible have value?“, then next was “The subversive view of copyright” where he said “I say go ahead and download YouTube videos regardless of what the “terms” say.” Then his next post was “Reaction to my rant about copyright” where he discussed reactions to his previous posts. Today, in his post entitled “Paradox land” he says, “The teaching of copyright and other intellectual property issues is overdue for an overhaul in our schools.”

So, I have been following the posts and comments about copyright and have been cogitating what the answer may or may not be.  Recently, our Clovis library staff recently discussed if it was ok to purchase a DVD from a local store and then show it in classrooms (because local stores sell DVDs and videos for a lot less – up to $30 less – than purchasing through a company who specializes in selling educational videos that come with permissions for school use). Most agreed that it was NOT ok to do this – and several produced documents they had purchased over the years to allow them to show purchased videos to classrooms and whole school gatherings, if needed. In my comment to Doug, I shared this story and then he said he thought it was OK to purchase videos at local stores as long as they are for educational use!

As a school librarian for the past 15 years, and growing into the digital age with the kids I worked with, more and more stuff was on the web, and copyright issues became more and more of a challenge – not so black and white when everything was just in print.  I remember all the teachers at the school created their own web pages, many of which were updated daily. One teacher used images from Disney. Another teacher at the same school logged into the teacher’s website, and impersonating a Disney lawyer, posted a comment which basically said “remove the Disney images or we will take legal action”. The teacher removed the images worried she had broken copyright because of this false posting.

As I was mulling over this question, I listened to the most recent “Women of the Web” podcast while working out at the gym today. The ladies interviewed Patrick Higgins, Director of Curriculum for Humanities and former history teacher, in Sparta Township Public School District in New Jersey.  After hearing the conversation, I wanted to read more about him, so checked out his blog.  His most recent blog post lead me to Lawrence Lessig’s (Lessig is the a professor at Stanford and on the Board for Creative Commons, an alternative to copyright) presentation at TED 2007, where he discusses, of all things – copyright!

I think this presentation from March 2007 (and posted to YouTube in Nov 2007) sums up where I stand on the issue. Among the many things he said, I think this is the most important: “...how this connects to our kids – they are different from us – we made mixed tapes, they remix music; we watched TV, they make TV – it is technology that has made them different – recognize that you can’t kill the instinct that technology we can only criminalize it – we can’t stop our kids from using it, we can only drive it underground – we can’t make our kids passive again, we can only make them “pirates”.  Ordinary people live life against the law – this is what we are doing to our kids.  That realization is…extraordinarily corrupting and in a democracy we ought to be able to do better…” This 20 minute presentation says it all:

And, following this, I began preparing for a professional development morning for kindergarten teachers on Tuesday, and downloaded a YouTube video to use to introduce the morning, because YouTube is filtered out in the school district so the only way to show a video is to save it to my computer.


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