Where do we go from here?

With all the important copyright and fair use issues presented through previous posts, one important question remains: where do we go from here? It’s no secret that the current copyright system was built in a time where copyright issues and infringement were easier to recognize and resolve. This leads to the conclusion that in order to maximize the positive affordances of this digital age, copyright laws, or perhaps even the ideologies behind them, will need to change.

What needs to change?

A more complete answer to this question is beyond the scope of this post, but there are some ideas for educators to consider to help make the intersection between copyright law and the digital age less complicated. First, the idea of common good is an important concept of intellectual property, and, specifically, the public domain. The public domain exists for the good of the public. This concept recognizes the importance of art, artistic freedom, and sharing to the growth of individuals and culture. Copyright laws exist, of course, to protect creators and artists. This protection is intended to encourage artists to create by providing legal protection.

Many copyright issues, it would seem, are more an issue of what journalist Kirby Ferguson describes as loss aversion than the threat of financial loss. Loss aversion, in short, is the idea that people hate losing what they’ve got. For more info on loss aversion and a very helpful and informative review on copyright in the digital age, watch Ferguson’s video from his “Everything is a Remix” series. If the resources offered by the digital age are to flourish, then individuals will need to be willing to give up some things in order to gain others. In other words, the drive to monetize everything that is a (not always bad) characteristic of a capitalistic culture will need to be relinquished to a degree. This applies to anybody who creates, but what are some ways educators can play a role in shaping the future of copyright?

What can educators do? 

First, one of the most important things educators can do to help prepare students, and future leaders, on copyright issues is to set the standard for proper citation and attribution methods. We need to, like any good writer, show not tell. Students should be able to observe a careful and respectful approach to citations and attributions that goes deeper than correct formatting, but that includes the reasoning behind citing sources. This reminder, as more students fail to see the difference between creating and copying, is more important than ever.

In the same way, educators can set the example by sharing free resources through outlets such as Open Educational Resources. When this happens, other educators benefit from this collaborative process and students then see this important concept at work: if the work is not created for the purpose of maintaining livelihood and can help others, then share it.

Lastly, educators, especially teachers of writing, can help students see the importance of both copyright and the public domain. As teachers of writers, this is an important point to emphasize. Not all students are creators in the way that writers are. Educators have an opportunity to stress the importance of approaching these issues from the perspective of “sharing responsibility for cultural policy” (WIPO and the The Future of Copyright).

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