Nancy Sims: Copyright in the K-12 Classroom

Our monthly “Key Instructional Contact” meeting had a guest speaker this month. Nancy Sims, from the University of Minnesota Library System spoke on Copyright in the K-12 Classroom. Group Meeting Notes can be found here.
Sims is a lawyer and Librarian.

Intellectual Property and Copyright Overview
Intellectual property is a legal concept that means different things to different people. Patent lawyers deal with Intellectual property, but may not know about copyright. It deals with things that people own that are not physical objects. 

  • Patents-In the last year, people in small business have been in trouble for using a scanner on a network. Usually not an issue for schools.
  • Trademarks-Usually not an issue in schools. Sims used a few logos as an example. Trademarks are about use in commerce, so most of the time, educational uses are ok. Implications of sponsorship could be an issue, but not an issue in student videos/teacher materials. Doug Johnson pointed out that trademarks could also be words, like “Big 6.” 
  • Copyright-Bigger than people think it is. It is automatic, for teachers as well as students. Many times, we only think of ourselves as copyright users, but we are all owners. It is an incentive for people to create. “It’s good for the public” to create, thus we all have rights. All Disney products are based in some part on public domain!
  • Usually based on a “bundle of rights.” 
  • Some rights are inside the bundle, some outside, and some spaces inside the bundle that educators can move and use.
  • Owner rights with Copyright: Making copies, Distribute copies, Public Performance and Display (Classrooms are defined as “Public.”), Making Derivative Works (Doing any one of these things is 100% LEGAL if it is Fair Use, or if any copyright exceptions apply.) 
  • Linking is not a violation, though if it’s on Youtube, try to be sure it was put up by the owner.
  • Sharing earbuds is not a violation
  • A camcorder video of a video would be a violation
  • Teacher Classroom Use ExemptionSection 110.1 of Copyright Law (When students and teachers are in the same space) teachers can make a copy. Showing an original copy in an educational setting is almost always ok in U.S. Copyright law. This doesn’t translate online at all! She could show something here in the room, but since this meeting was being streamed, she would be in violation. Face to face in front of students is ok, according to Sims. Fair Use, cares about the purpose. 
  •  Sims noted that tne movie broadcast to multiple classrooms is on the boarderline of the exemption.

Copyright: rights of owners, teachers and everyone else

Fair Use
Fair Use is an exception. Sims reffered to it as “the jello of copyright law.” It gives the flexibility for free cultural exchange. It exists as the “breathing space” of copyright law. 

Myth: Use one time is ok, but the following year, not. This was from 1976, and it is not actually true.

Myth: This much and not more than that, also a myth. 

Classroom copyright guidelines have been struck down lately. If it is Fair Use once, it is fair use again. 
Quoting a certain amount is wrong in both directions! 30 seconds of a 2 minute film is a significant amount of the movie! It is more about proportional.  We are back to jello! 
She suggests looking at 17 USC 107, and recent cases to learn more about Fair Use.

Fair Use likes teachers! Sims suggests we should be pushing the boundaries!

Fair Use is the same online as well as off. She cited the example of the PS22 Chorus as an example of what might appear to be a violation as a group that has never been sued! 

 Contracts and licenses can change all the copyright rules for owners and for users. For example, Amazon, Microsoft or Netflix violations might pose different risks.

Q and A

  • Nature of the work: More room to use Non-Fiction rather than Fiction. Your potential impact on the market can pose issues, especially online
  • Journal Articles: There isn’t that much of a market for it. 
  • Magazine Articles: Either downloading for a few dollars, or contacting their sharing department. By sharing with your students, it could harm the market, but judges lately are saying it is fair use. If it is posted to students, it could ultimately harm the market.
  • Contract/Agreements: If you actively agree to abide by a contract agreement about use, and then you violate it, then there could be issues.
  • Liability: If you violate, can you get in big trouble or can you just take it down? For example, if you upload a copyright violation to Youtube, they may ask Youtube to take it down. Or, they could sue you right off the bat if they want. They don’t have to take it down first. $150,000 fines for one time!
  • For teachers, if it is part of your job, and it is a reasonable judgement, your employer is responsible for your activities. If they see it is obviously illegal, they can disavow your activities. There is a limitation of liability for educators. Educators making a reasonable guess, who are found in violation, will not face the monetary damages.
  • Modeling good behavior is choosing not to copy if it is a violation, and choosing to copy when it is Fair Use!
  • Sometimes companies ignore violations because it is to their benefit! 
Sims highly urges teachers to look for Creative Commons Licensing and model using it.

Sims handed out a “Copyright Triage” document (Cc that had 5 key points:

  1. Copyright is everywhere
  2. Contracts affect copyrights
  3. Copyright is NOT ABSOLUTE
  4. There is extra wiggle-room for educational users
  5. Individuals are responsible for their own behavior
I think in a perfect world, decisions about copyright should be black and white, so that everyone is clear about what they can and can’t do. It’s obvious we are now living in an age of “grey,” where much of this is going to be left to individual interpretation! It was refreshing to hear a pragmatic approach to this issue.

Here is a presentation Sims recently gave on Open Access Publishing at the University of St. Thomas.

In a side-bar after the session, Sims mentioned that legal exceptions to breaking the encryption is ok for legal use in some cases. DMCA anti-circumvention exceptions. Student remix if critical is ok! Ultimately it is an issue of equity! Her point: Rich kids can rip at home, poor kids can’t at school!