It used to be so easy to introduce myself to people at parties - I can recall the standard formula now:
'So what do you do?'
'I'm a teacher.'
'Oh wow - what age?'
'11 to 18 year olds.'
'No, not really - I'm in a good school, lots of nice kids - the tricky ones are nameable rather than being a mob!'
'What do you teach?'
'Oh, I love history!'
And so on... But now - now the conversation runs very differently:
'So what do you do?
'I er, I work in copyright.'
'Oh, what like advertising?'
'No, um, it's more, related to publishing and authorship.'
'In what way?'
'Well, my company sells copyright licences to organisations so that they have permission to copy people's work.'
'So you're like the copyright police?!'
'No - NO - not at all!'
It's no one's fault. Until I joined CLA three years ago I'd never really thought about copyright. As a teacher if I needed to copy something for my students, I did it, because their progress was all that mattered to me. Obviously when I joined CLA I had to get up to speed, and while there was an element of getting to grips with terms and conditions and copyright law, at its heart copyright is really very simple: if you want to use someone's stuff, check that you have their permission. Sometimes people will let you use it for free, other times they might want to be referenced, but often people just want to be fairly paid for something they've done.
I think it can sometimes be a bit tricky for teachers to digest this. The profession is generally a very altruistic one, where people are happy to share ideas, resources and templates for free in an environment of bon ami. But when you take your typical school textbook or novel, think about the expertise and time poured in to that. Subject specialists were consulted with, designers were recruited, printers were commissioned and they all have a stake in that book. If I infringe on their copyright, I'm not going to be seeing many more high quality textbooks like it - and then where will pupil progress be?
It's important for our students to understand copyright too. I do sometimes gag at the term digital native (surely every generation was more digitally native than the last?!) but the sentiment behind the term is accurate. Students have the technology that means they can access, consume and re-use material as never before, and knowing where what you're reading, watching or listening to has come from has never been more important.
- All state schools in the UK have the CLA Education Licence - make the most of it by photocopying, scanning, copying and pasting, and annotating extracts from opted in materials.
- Cite your sources. Model good referencing to your students, and perhaps maybe inspire some to go and read the full thing!
- Remember that just because something is technically possible, doesn't mean it's free of copyright.
- Don't be scared of copyright. I genuinely believe it's a protection rather than a burden. Sometimes you will be able to re-use stuff, sometimes you won't, but working this out can help you get inventive with lesson resources and activities.
About the Author
Julie Murray is Education Licences Manager at CLA, which means she trains and educates licencees in schools, further and higher education institutions about CLA licences and how they fit in to the wider world of copyright. Prior to working at CLA, Julie was Head of History and Politics at an 11-18 comprehensive in London.