Sunday, June 27, 2010

More on Copyright and Fair Use

Wes Fryer just wrote a great post on Copyright and Licensing Considerations When Importing Audio Books. It's a perfect extension on the information in my post of June 23rd regarding fair use and copyright.

In the scenario from my June 23rd post, the main concern was the fact that the audio recordings of the books would be posted to the web. When you get right down to it, recording a book or ripping a recording of one, even for personal use, breaks copyright law even if it's never reposted anywhere or shared with anyone else. I decided not to go into that when I wrote my post, but Wes does a great job of going into those details in his blog post. He even touches on recording content from out-of-date technologies such as VHS or cassete tapes to digital formats for continued use. I encourage you to read it and share your thoughts!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Just Because It's Educational Doesn't Mean It's Fair Use

I think many educators with good intentions use techniques like the one I'm about to describe below to support their students' learning without ever even thinking about the possibility that they might be infringing on someone's copyright.

In the course I am currently taking, one of the topics that has been addressed on the discussion boards is podcasting and its various uses in education. One of the teachers in the class posted how excited she was about using podcasting in the coming school year to record the books her students read. She plans to post the recordings to her website so the children can access them from home. She felt that since she wasn't using the recording from her school's library, she felt she had no issues with copyright.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't play one on TV or the web for that matter, but recording an entire piece of literature and posting out to the web for anyone to get to seemed like a copyright violation to me. Even if the purpose was educational and not-for-profit.

Here are the comments I posted in the class discussion:
I think it is admirable that you want to provide audio recordings of the books your students will be reading in class, but I think you might need to research the copyright implications a little more closely. I'm not a lawyer, but I try to keep up with the fundamentals of this since I have to help educate our teachers on copyright.

Unless the books are so old that they are in the Public Domain, recording them word-for-word and posting them on the Internet could be a violation of copyright. Most books have this paragraph or one like it on the copyright page inside the cover:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or any other - except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior permission of the publisher.


Authors and publishers receive royalties off of the recorded versions of their books. Recording a book yourself and posting it to the Internet where anyone can download it can negatively impact the earning power of the book, which is one of the big litmus tests of copyright violation when copyright cases are brought to court. In reality, recording a book and posting it online is no different than photcopying or word-processing the whole book and then posting it on the web where anyone can download it without having to pay the author and publisher.

If any of the titles you are reading are older and out of copyright, you might find them in iTunes. One of the neatest resources I have heard about recently is Lit2Go, a joint project of the University of South Florida and the Florida Educational Technology Clearinghouse: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/. I hope this link is helpful to you.
My guess is recording and posting a short passage from a work of literature or a single poem from an anthology would be considered fair use, but the entire work posted out to the Internet where anyone can download it almost certainly crosses the fair use line.

There was a time when I thought posting such materials on a password protected web site or within a learning managment system such as Moodle or Blackboard would keep the content in the Fair Use realm, but this article regarding UCLA telling professors to stop posting videos to their online courses made me realize that the password protection practice may not cover educators either.

As educators we all need to keep abreast of what is permissable, especially in a Web 2.0 world. We should demonstrate respect for the intellectual property of others and model that respect in front of our students. The Stanford University Libraries have a wonderful resource website on Copyright and Fair Use which includes a continuously updated blog with updates on curent cases if you would like to investigate further. Because copyright is also an interest of mine, I am always adding to my copyright bookmarks on Delicious, where as of this post I have 42 bookmarks on copyright, some of which include lessons for students.

What do you do to help fellow educators and students understand the concepts of copyright and fair use? Please share your own copyright resources or stories in the comments.

Update 6-27-10 - I posted a short follow-up to the above post. Click to read More on Copyright and Fair Use.

Update 7-9-10 - Copyright has been on my radar lately! For a couple of real-life illustrations which might help educate teachers and students on the importance of copyright protections, see my post Current Real-Life Examples for Discussing Copyright Ethics.
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