Thursday, July 21, 2011

Copyright - Are Teachers the Worst Offenders?

I had a lovely time in Haliburton last week. I learned how to bead on fabric, shibori and indigo dyeing and sashiko. Great teachers and great students.

But there was one thing that dampened my spirits somewhat. And that was that the teachers and staff at Fleming College seemed to be oblivious to the copyright violations that they are perpetrating.

I did not speak up. I did not challenge the teachers or the staff. Why not? I tell myself that it was because I didn't want to put a damper on the class. And there are so few people who understand copyright and I didn't want to get into an argument or discussion about it. Probably, I was just too chicken to raise a fuss.

One teacher began the class by handing out photocopies of pages from a magazine article she had just read on the topic we were learning. She prefaced the handout by stating that she didn't believe she was violating any rights because she was giving credit to the magazine for the article. Wrong!

My colleague and I had brought in some books we had on the topic to share with the others so they could look at them and write down the information to purchase their own copy if they wished. Much to my chagrin the teacher took my books and made some photocopies for the class. Wrong again! Didn't even ask my permission which I couldn't give anyway.

And to top it all off, the teacher then proceeded to copy the instructions from a purchased kit and hand those out as well. The staff at the college made the copies. There is a sign over the photocopier that states that the college accepts no responsibility for copyright violations. No kidding.

I am feeling guilty for not speaking up.  However, I will remember to tell the teacher and students when I bring a book to a class that they are free to look at them and right down the information for ordering their own copy, but not to copy any pages. I will also write a letter to the college enclosing all the photocopies that were given to me and asking that they inform their teachers not to hand out copyright materials and that staff should not make copies from books, kits and magazines.

Someone told me that they believe that colleges pay a fee that allows them to photocopy copyrighted materials. I don't know if it's true but I will look into it. But does the artist get the money? Artists work hard enough for so little return anyway. I wish people would just do the right thing and get permission.

When I was at business school, we were often given copies of articles from Harvard Business Review. The university purchased the articles and they were reprinted for the students. The articles stated on the bottom of the pages "Reprinted with Permission". When I worked in marketing and communication in the corporate world, if I wanted to reprint an article or post it on our website, I purchased the rights from the publisher. If I wanted to use images for advertising, I bought the rights. It's easy to do. It's the right thing to do.

Teachers everywhere, students look up to you. Do the right thing. Don't violate copyright laws.

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