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.

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