A Reflection of Copyright Laws in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

What. A. Week.  

The past few weeks have escalated into what feels like being trapped on a post-apocalyptic movie set, but it is in fact real life.  Currently, our world is in a state of emergency due to the novel Coronavirus also known as COVID-19. It has been a steadily increasing concern around the world until these last two weeks in which the numbers of those infected have spiked resulting in lock-downs. All businesses including schools and universities with the exception of healthcare and grocery stores are closed until further notice.  People have been encouraged to remain home, quarantined, so we can “flatten the curve” with hopes of spacing out the cases so as to not overload the hospitals and healthcare workers. The hashtag circulating around the world is #socialdistancing which is our only hope for flattening the curve and wave of expected needs predicted in the coming weeks. With this said, the valuable information I have learned in the last 16 months in the Digital Learning and Leading program could not have come at a more opportune time.  I never believed I would need to implement some of these skills before graduating, however with schools all over the world scrambling to implement online learning, I feel needed now more than ever before. This current course, Digital Citizenship, has provided an overview of not only what it means to be a responsible citizen online, but how to provide resources to support student learning online by following the appropriate copyright rules. With our current state of emergency, implementing digital citizenship principles is now.  

This week’s class centered around the thrilling topic of Copyright laws.  I cannot stress enough how difficult this has been due to the topic not only being extremely technical and honestly, not my favorite subject, but my focus feels split with all that is going on in our world right now.  Copyright law is complex and in my opinion, although fair use is meant to alleviate some of the restrictions or at least simplify them, it does not. We explored a timeline that shows when and what was deemed copyrighted by the year.  This helped clarify a bit for an overall understanding of how long certain works have been protected and how long they will remain protected. Copyright law can be defined as a legal process that protects the works that belong to the copyright holder.  If someone creates something, they legally own it unless they release their rights to it in writing. The holder may disperse copies of the work to the public for free or by purchase, reproduce the work, expand on the work, perform the work in a variety of ways in public, or transfer ownership.  If someone were to purchase the original work, the rights do not extend to the purchaser, the copyright holder still holds the rights to their own work (Hirtle, Hudson, & Kenyon, 2009). In fact, the owner owns the rights to this work exclusively and it is enforced and protected at least 70 years after death.  I can’t argue with that. 

And then we introduce fair use. The term “fair” seems to provide insight as to what this legality enforces.  Basically, the intent of fair use is to limit a copyright owner’s complete control over the access of the work.  It is in a sense in the public’s favor to grant access to these protected works. It places restrictions on the private censorship of information.  In essence, if a work is published, the public has the right to access the information (McCord, 2014). Fair use offers flexibility when teachers need to use published or protected work for educational purposes, however they must attribute or credit the original copyright holder.  Accurate attribution protects the teacher from committing copyright infringement and allows flexibility with how the work is used as long as it supports student learning.  

My key takeaway in all of this is how I am using published work in my classroom.  Copyright law is not simple to understand, and I can only assume it will expand as technology and digital applications advance.  The comforting aspect to all of this is the protection teachers have when using a legally obtained copy for educational purposes thanks to fair use laws.  I teach 3rd grade, all subjects, therefore I need as many resources I can obtain to accommodate the unique needs of my students. It feels good to know that as long as I am giving proper attribution to the work we are using in class, I am safe.

We have the responsibility as educators to teach our students how to attribute and understand the importance of respecting copyright laws.  Intellectual property is no different than physical property, therefore it must be treated as such. Permission and accurately attributing the credit to the owner of this property is everyone’s responsibility.  Fair use provides more easy access, but this does not relieve us of the order in which we obtain the information. Apathetic behavior regarding acceptable use has serious consequences, therefore we must model and teach our students the appropriate, legal steps in using others’ work.

References and Resources:

Association of Research Libraries. (2012, January). Code of best practices in fair use for academic and research libraries. Retrieved from: https://luonline.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-3340314-dt-content-rid-53823053_1/courses/12766.201890/code-of-best-practices-fair-use%281%29.pdf

Hirtle, P., Hudson, E., & Kenyon, A. (2009). Copyright and cultural institutions: Guidelines for digitization for U.S. libraries, archives, and museums. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Library. Retrieved from: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/14142/Hirtle-Copyright_final_RGB_lowres-cover1.pdf?sequence=2

Louisiana State University. (2018). The original TEACH act toolkit. Retrieved from: https://www.lib.lsu.edu/services/copyright/teach/index

McCord, G. (2014). Fair use: The secrets no one tells you. Austin, TX: Digital Information Law. Available from: https://digitalinfolaw.com/product/fair-use-the-secrets-no-one-tells-you-e-book/