Rethinking Learning
conversations about the future of teaching and learning
Barbara Bray
be creative, innovate, take risks, unlearn to learn
Oakland, CA

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Copyright and Online Learning Communities
By Barbara Bray    June 1, 2006 -- 09:04 AM

Copyright in education seems obvious but there are so many issues that cloud what is legal and ethical. Teachers need to consider four issues when determining if a work is allowed under the principles of fair use:
  • the purpose and character of the use,
  • the nature of the copyrighted work,
  • the amount and substantiality of the portion to be used, and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market.
Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 110 (2) of the Copyright Act (2002) referred to as the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act, provides guidance for educators.

I have worked with lots of teachers who follow copyright and fair use laws. They ask their students to create their own music or only use up to a certain amount of seconds of any music. Sounds easy and legal - right?

So if students remix music taking only 5 seconds from one copyrighted track of an album and another 10 seconds from another copyrighted album, is this okay? Kids are so tech savvy, they can take any music from the Beatles and remix it - change it - and voilŠ - itís now their version of the Beatles music.

Copyright laws do not allow students to do this without asking permission of the copyright holder. In most cases, if the owner understands how the student will be using the music and the owner is given proper credit and citation, they will probably give permission. Are we asking our students to ask for permission? What happens if the copyright holder denies permission?

Now hereís another question: What if a teacher or students create music, videos, or other work and want to allow others to use or modify their work? How can others know how the teacher or students as the creator of these materials plans to make them available to others?

Creative Commons offers copyright holders and creators of intellectual materials a way of declaring their work with "some rights reserved" rather than "all rights reserved." This means that the owner of the work may allow someone:

  • to use or modify their work if they do not use it for commercial purposes
  • to use for commercial purposes but will not allow any modifications of the work
  • to use or modify based on a license under Creative Commons
The Creative Commons license process does provide a legal way for an author or content creator to indicate how their work can and can not be shared or remixed.  Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began in 2001 the OpenCourseWare initiative where they offer over 1500 online courses free and open to the public.  110 courses and 2,647 modules are now available through the Connexions project at Rice University. Students can also take music lessons and learn musicology from instructors at Berklee College of Music through the Berklee Shares project. All of these are through a Creative Commons licensing agreement.

Creative Commons licensed music is found on a number of Web sites, including Opsound, the Freesound Project created by the Music Technology Group at Universitat Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona, Spain, and ccMixter, a project of Creative Commons. More than 4.5 million images licensed by Creative Commons are currently available online at sites like Flickr and Open Photo.

Excerpt from this article was originally published in Innovate as: Pitler, H. 2006. Creative commons: A new tool for schools. Innovate 2 (5).  (accessed June 1, 2006).

I have some concerns though. I put up pictures in FlickR and didnít realize that I was agreeing to a Creative Commons license. Educators and their students can use, modify, and remix files, images, videos, and music based on the Creative Commons license as long as they read the copyright holderís license. The copyright holder may not have been aware of what they agreed to. I plan to take down some of my images in FlickR now. I encourage eCoach members to read the article on Innovate, go to the Creative Commons site and check out different sites that use this license. If you develop any materials and publish to the Internet, consider licensing your materials in this manner or at least understand what it means to publish globally.

My eCoach was designed in the same manner as Creative Commons but with the community in mind. All work contributed to the community is shared with the idea that anyone can use your work as long as that person gives you credit. When your project is published to the eLibrary others have access to it and can use it with their students. The power of eCoach is that members can collaborate, share, learn from each other in a safe environment. If you are on a team, there is an eCoach looking out for you.

Do you believe that any project you create should then be available for others like the MIT courses?
How do you feel about creating music and publishing it for others in eCoach?
What about student work and allowing others to modify their work?

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Comments: Add New Comments
By Barbara Weintraub      August 14, 2006 -- 03:25 PM

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