Illustration by Ilaria Urbinati for The Forger's Apprentice, episode 3 of The Game is On!
Learning on Screen was set up in 1948 with a clear goal: to make moving image and sound as important in education and research as the written word. For more than 70 years, our vision has remained the same but the landscape has changed radically. While in the late 1940s scarcity of resources was the main issue faced by teachers wishing to create and use films and videos for educational purposes, today the challenge is how to find high-quality, reliable materials in the sea of audiovisual works being created every day.
BoB – our on-demand TV and radio service for education – helps teachers and students navigate this ever-growing sea, or at least part of it. It allows staff and students at subscribing institutions to record programmes from over 75 free-to-air channels, and search our extensive archive of over 2 million broadcasts available to view.
But what if a teacher wants to screen a film or programme that was not broadcast on one of the free-to-air channels covered by the Educational Recording Agency licence? Or how about a student wishing to mash up existing films to create a video essay? Decisions around the reuse of existing materials are structured by copyright law, often without the participants’ awareness or knowledge.
This is why in 2018 we decided to set up our Copyright Advisory Service: to help the UK education sector make informed decisions on copyright issues related to accessing and using audiovisual material, with a view to facilitating and encouraging the lawful use of moving image and sound in education and research.
The main component of our service is the educational offer, in particular the course on Copyright and Creative Reuse in Education. Primarily aimed at teachers, students, academics, researchers, librarians, and e-learning technologists and editors, the course helps attendees understand the conditions under which audiovisual works can be used lawfully for educational purposes, and how mash ups and other derivative works can be created and exploited within and beyond educational settings. Since its launch in November 2018, the course attracted more than 140 students from over 30 different Higher Education institutions, as well as members of staff from the British Library, the British Film Institute, the British Council and a number of creative and educational companies.
Our Copyright Advisory Service is shaped by a number of guiding principles. First of all, we focus on positive messaging: we highlight what copyright enables and allows, rather than what it prohibits or prevents. Also, we adopt a bottom-up approach aimed at identifying the most common knowledge needs of our audience, with a view to offering responsive guidance. In other words, instead of telling people what we think they should know about copyright, first we try to understand what they don’t but want to know, and then design our educational offer accordingly. Importantly, our copyright guidance is balanced. We address copyright topics comprehensively, explaining licensing and enforcement as well as the public domain and copyright exceptions.
Another distinctive feature of our courses is that they allow students to keep ‘learning on screen’ about copyright on their own through open access educational resources. In fact, Copyright and Creative Reuse in Education relies on the freely available resources of CopyrightUser.org, an independent online platform developed by CREATe (University of Glasgow) and intended to make UK copyright law accessible to everyone. In particular, the last session of the course uses the resource The Game is On! 1 to consolidate some of the topics addressed during the day, such as the idea-expression dichotomy, the concept of substantial part, copyright duration, and exceptions, among others. The Game is On! is a series of short animated films that put copyright and creativity under the magnifying glass of Sherlock Holmes, providing a unique, research-led and open access resource for exploring key principles and ideas underpinning copyright law, creativity, and the limits of lawful appropriation and reuse. Each episode is accompanied by a number of related Case Files, supplementary educational materials aimed at suggesting points of discussion about copyright for teachers and students. To facilitate the use of the resource in FE and schools, in 2019 the UK Intellectual Property Office commissioned the development of a suite of educational materials based on The Game is On! as well as a trailer for the series.
Illustration by Davide Bonazzi for The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair, episode 1 of The Game is On!
In addition to allowing teachers and students to understand copyright law and to explore how copyright relates to a wide range of cultural, social and moral issues, The Game is On! demonstrates, in a practical way, how copyright enables creative possibilities. In fact, the series is based on hundreds of existing works – such as books and graphic novels, soundtracks, paintings and photographs, sketches and storyboards, film and television scripts – all of which have been used lawfully under UK copyright law.
This blog post was originally published in the Winter 2019 CITE Magazine.
About the Author
As well as working at Learning on Screen, a charity and membership organisation specialised in the use of moving image and sound in education, he also works as Creative Director for CREATe and as Director of Worth Knowing Productions, a digital creative team specialised in making complex knowledge accessible through research-based visual tools.
In 2015, and alongside Professor Ronan Deazley, Bartolomeo received the Arts and Humanities Research Councils (AHRC) Innovation Award for Research in Film. This was for their work ‘The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair’, the first episode in ‘The Game is On’ webseries.
 The Game is On! series was written, directed and produced by Ronan Deazley and Bartolomeo Meletti. The first episode of the series – The Adventure of the Girl with the Light Blue Hair – received the 2015 AHRC Award for Innovation in Film. The Game is On! series has also been recently selected for the UK Web Fest 2019.