Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Copyright Conundrum

Over the past year and a half, I and several district Technology Integration Specialists (TIS) along with our web developer have been working to create an online searchable teacher resource center. The idea is to gather together great district teacher resources including documents, spreadsheets, SMART Notebook lessons, presentations, unit plans, etc and place them where our teachers can access them over the internet. While the idea is good in concept, over the past year we have figuratively hit a brick wall when we looked closely at copyright.

The “Fair Use” clause allows individual teachers working in their own classroom to use many resources available from the internet for up to two years. Unfortunately, shared resources do not have the same copyright protection under Fair Use Guidelines as do materials created by an individual teacher for use in his or her classroom. Last summer, I created a set of multimedia guidelines for our district technology classes that would serve as a guide for resources that our district currently licenses and could use without invoking fair use. This document was approved by the district; however, this still does not seem to be enough. Guideline two allows for the use of “Media sources that utilize alternative copyright standards (royalty free) …” so I have been trying to compile a list of potential royalty free and public domain websites for our district teachers to use. Here is my current list that has yet to be approved. Coincidently, an Intel Teach colleague of mine recently posted a listing of websites that appear to have free use of images and sounds. Dyane Smokorowski’s Best Sites to Find Public Domain Images and Sounds for Student Projects is a good attempt to give educators a place to go to find great resources, yet not have to worry about fair use guidelines. (Although, in my opinion the copyright statement of the Library of Congress disqualifies it.)

But our efforts are simply piecemeal at best. Until our legislators or the courts clarify this chaos, perhaps we need one place that all teachers can go to get information like this. While Creative Commons is the right way to go for letting us know what we can and cannot do with some creation, teachers still need a place to find great resources that they know are truly free to use for educational purposes.

1 comment:

  1. Having walked this journey with you, I understand your use of the word, "conundrum." We have worked so hard to be legally right that we have tied our own hands with more restrictions than most other educators observe. I really liked your idea of creating a clearinghouse of sorts for copyright free materials for teacher.