Is your classroom home to budding artists, designers, musicians, or writers? We’ve gathered some interesting copyright facts you can use to get students thinking about their creative rights, while also encouraging critical thinking skills!
Most of us are probably aware of copyright from a young age, but it can still be a really tricky subject to get to grips with. There are lots of exceptions and different situations that can change who owns the rights to a work.
If your students are interested in creating content, it’s important for them to know their rights. However, the nuance and debate of copyright also makes it a good topic for teaching critical thinking and analytical skills. The seven interesting facts below will give your students a good starting point into the world of copyright, and hopefully leave some room to spark up a little classroom debate!
1. You don’t need to declare copyright or include a copyright notice to be protected
You’re probably familiar with the copyright © symbol (it’s even in CLA’s logo!), but you don’t actually need it to make sure your work is covered by copyright. Actually, you don’t need to include any copyright notice at all—when you commit your idea to paper (or any other fixed form) your work is automatically protected! However, it might still be a good idea to include a copyright notice so nobody can claim they didn’t realise the work was protected.
2. Students (generally) have copyright over their schoolwork
Student work is protected under copyright and, in most circumstances, is owned by the student who created it. That means students’ schoolwork can’t be sold or reproduced by their school without permission.
There are some exceptions, however. If someone else has been substantially involved with the work, they might be able to claim joint ownership. Some institutions make it a condition of enrolment that students assign copyright of created works to their establishment, or provide a royalty free licence. If students haven’t agreed anything like this, though, they retain copyright over their works.
3. Whoever creates the work, owns the copyright
This one might sound obvious, but it’s worth thinking about the implications of this with your students. If your friend borrows your phone and takes a photo, it’s the friend who owns the copyright, not the owner of the device. You can even take it further with things like tattoos; if the tattooist designed and created the tattoo, they own the rights to that work, even though it’s on someone else’s body! This is because the law doesn’t differentiate between mediums used to create. Whether your work is created on a digital platform, paper, a laptop, or even a body, you still own the rights to it.
CLASSROOM ACTIVITY: Take a scenario like the one above and start a debate: who do your students believe owns the copyright?
4. Employers own the rights to employees’ work, but volunteers aren’t employees
If you create something during the course of your employment, your employer owns the rights to it. However, volunteers are not employees, which means they retain the rights to their work, even if it’s produced during the course of their volunteering. If your students do voluntary work, it’s a good
time to think about copyright and whether they want to assign copyright or certain permissions to the organisation they’re volunteering for.
5. Copyright still applies even if the copier isn’t making any money from it
In the age of the internet, it’s a common misconception that it’s okay to copy things you find as long as you’re not selling them. This isn’t true because copyright refers to the exclusive right to copy, not just the right to sell. However, the UK does allow certain exceptions to copyright in some circumstances—check out our blog post to find out how this can help students—but these are quite specific so you need to check carefully before assuming you don’t need permission to copy the material.
If you can’t afford to pay to copy others’ works and you don’t think your use falls under a copyright exception, all hope is not lost! The internet has a lot of materials which offer a royalty-free licence, such as Creative Commons.
6. Copyright infringement isn’t usually a criminal offence, but you can still get in trouble for it
Copyright infringement tends to be resolved in civil rather than criminal cases, with certain exceptions if the infringement is on a particularly large scale. However, just because it’s a civil matter doesn’t mean you can’t get in trouble for it! Actually, civil courts require a lower burden of proof than criminal courts—the former just need to think, on balance of probability, that the defendant is guilty, while the latter need to think beyond all reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty.
CLASSROOM ACTIVITY: Present the class with a famous case of copyright infringement, for example Star Wars vs Battlestar Galatica. Divide the class in two and have them present cases for and against the argument of infringement.
7. Teachers in UK schools are (usually) allowed to copy without infringing because their governing body or school holds a CLA Education Licence
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the CLA licence at least once! If any sharp-eyed students learn about copyright and then question why their teachers are allowed to make photocopies and scans of other people’s work without getting in trouble, you can let them know about the CLA licence and how it works for schools. Collective licensing bodies like CLA exist all over the world to help organisations who need to make copies but couldn’t realistically ask permission every time they needed to copy something. CLA exists to address this problem, so teachers can make the copies they need to do their jobs and rightsholders still get paid when their work is copied.