Copyright Infringement in Education: Grey Waters

I thought learning about copyright laws in education would be boring. Was I wrong.

The grey area between inspiration and plagiarism. (Image courtesy of CC)

Rock Star Math and Science Productions
I create a lot of media for my work as a teacher. Most recently, I have started creating videos of what I do with my students. I call these "Rock Star Productions" which is my schtick as I am a rock musician (which is cool) and a math and science teacher (which is by default, dorky) and wanted to portray math and science lessons that were engaging and fun. My primary audience are the parents of my students who see them on my classroom blog and many of them comment of how much they appreciate seeing what their children do and other teachers who might like ideas for teaching specific content. As a secondary goal, the rise of rock star productions would be a way of my starting my "brand" and expanding my digital footprint in education.

My "Rock Star Productions" section of my youtube channel. I've created about 30 videos this year

 I learned that there is a company called "Rock Star Productions" so the question I ask is this: is this a copyright infringement? The language stated in the following leads me to think "no"

"the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purpose"-Copyright Act

Because my work is of an educational nature, it doesn't violate this and "the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole;" is low with only a three word title. However, if years from now I'm contracted how to do a video using this style or asked to put the title "Rock Star Productions" on a commercialized work, I may have to rethink this title. I contacted the real rock star production company to see if my work as a teacher may infringe on their title and have not heard back from them, nor do I think I will. 

In the meantime, building a brand a style takes time and it's exciting for me to learn basic video production techniques and incorporate various people into these lessons along the way. I wonder what advice Lee Lefever would have for me. After some students remixed this with "how to make a microphone" I found an article which argued that emulating stylistic forms is not advisable because you risk you or your business being labelled a pirate. Why risk it?

Wading into the Grey Pool of Copyright Infringement 
 I'm also a underwater photographer. One of my joys in recent years is making a highlights clip of destinations that we visit as it's easier to tweet or share to facebook a short video rather than subject friends to 300 video clips and pictures. Last summer, I made a video of our trip to Belize and used a song from the band, Counting Crows which I attributed in the credits.

When I uploaded it to youtube, after a week, my video manager informed me that this would "not be made available" in some countries. I assume that it's algorithm picked up signs of copyrighted material. I read some of the language from this declaration and basically, it said that if I used copyrighted material I could lose my ability to use "youtube". Strong words. However, a few weeks later, the red flags went down to half mast as the warning was downgraded and a snippet followed that it was OK, as I "attributed" copyrighted material which they may not have found during their intial search. I've made similar videos with CC music and have had no problems.  

Always Attribute
I don't know why people like Byron Lavery don't cite influence like Dorthy Lewis as Malcom Gladwell portrays in his work "Something Borrowed". I think people honestly don't know what constitutes intellectual property. What was really interesting was when Lavery was asked why she could be so detailed about her work, but ambiguous about attribution to which she replied "It never occurred to me to ask you. I thought it was news." 
Do we need to make examples of these infractors to teach the world what not to do?  Her reputation was ruined over what she though was an innocent mistake. Should we feel comfortable doing the same with a teenager in a high school class?

It seems to be good practice to attribute work as soon as it's remixed or augmented. Kirby Ferguson has presented an interesting phenomenon which I'll try to summarize here which is that people don't mind stealing others ideas, but take offense when people steal theirs. Recently I used a term called "The Keillor Effect" which I used in a post "Why Should We Connect Students?" The term was used as reference to a quote he had made which I had attributed to him. I thought it would be the courteous thing to do.

Dropping Garrison Keillor a URL of my post where I coined "The Keillor Effect"

Although he didn't engage in any dialogue with me or object, he did retweet the article to his followers so I think he was satisfied with my attribution.

Building media and developing a brand takes time. Being it a blog or series of instructional videos. However, I think its good to get it right from the start to prevent learning only years later that your work was not a remix, but an infringement. In the meantime, we can set a good example, point out bad ones, and make these grey waters more clear.


  1. Gary,
    I'm beginning to wonder if I have enough grey matter left to wade much further into the grey area between plagiarism and inspiration. I just had to search COETAIL and Google for "rabbit hole" Carrol 1865, of which I have used rather often since 1:1 disruption began. Your blog sent me down another one warranting comments on several levels.

    First, the overall appearance of your blog is incredibly appealing to me. Colors, textures, simplicity, arrangement of space, and overall organization make it very easy to spend time falling into it. I will pick your brain on this theme and your Word Press expertise as time allows and my COETAIL trail forces me to remake my own blog.

    Second, the content depth, bells and whistles that you have embedded are awesome. While I tend to overload for effect, you have included key tools for easy content consumption and collaboration connections to be made. Insert the last sentence of previous paragraph here. I'll call it the Chorus from now on.

    Third, this issue is the heart of what education needs to embrace from kindergarten to teacher education and training. Things are radically different from when I simply had to quote properly and create a bibliography in ALA format and call it good. Day to day activities including taking pictures in class and posting about what we are doing requires mindfulness on many levels. I just found out that every screenshot or video that includes Minecraft is owned by Mozang! I need to look into this further as I'm currently planning on using MC for entire SS unit Changing Our World, and your post has pushed me to it. While us COETAILers are wading through the waters of free and open source learning, there are those people who are a little more egocentric or selfish and don't think twice about it; therefore, they are not modeling and instilling the import of this to their students day to day and minute by minute. A colleague this week shared a graphic of the SAMR model with apps correlated for us to use at a division meeting with no citation included. I asked if they created it, a simple no was all I got. I know I missed a tacking moment, but I will address this with the individual as soon as possible. Chorus.

    Finally (for now as I need a run), I am a novice with iMovie. Since December, I have shot clips of all aspects of my classroom to document student learning and the evolution of our learning in a 1:1 environment. Your Rock Star Productions are exactly the direction I want to go, especially as I dive down the Minecraft rabbit hole and other gaming/coding units we're dabbling in. Chorus repeated twice. If you have any resources that you used to master the editing and creating of these videos, I'd appreciate avoiding another venture into the deep downs.


    PS I found this resource when I tried to find where down the rabbit hole really originated:

  2. Mick,

    Thanks for such a thoughtful comment. I use video pad for my movies but imovies is just as effective. Having a classroom blog has been a great tool for marketing these videos.

    I have a seventh grader who had started making mine craft videos with relative ease. What a modern age we live in!


  3. Plagiarism issues are very common while making an assignment.. When the students do not concern with their superior then they have to face it also they have to deal with several problems of consequences. I will suggest them to always concern with some experienced and professional essay writers to avoid problem of plagiarism also check this out for more guide with free assignment writing


Post a Comment

Popular Posts