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Managing Copyright in Schools
Webinar handout by Carol Simpson
Assoc. Prof., School of Library and Information Sciences (mod. ser.)
University of North Texas
Denton, Texas

Managing copyright in a building is as much about managing people as it is about managing things.

Managing things Managing things

As a practical matter, it is a good policy to have the things under control before concentrating on the people. People will resist and forget, and having the appropriate notices, stickers and practices worked out in advance can ease the transition into compliance.

Reminder: compliance will address the six rights of the copyright holder: reproduction, adaptation, distribution, public performance, public display, and digital distribution of sound recordings. Some rights will have more effect on certain materials than others.

As with all matters of copyright, you can do whatever you have permission to do. The suggestions below are for situations where there is no license or permission in place.

Print Books generally have copyright information printed on the back of the title page. Magazines will usually list copyright information on the masthead page. Making copyright control notations in the catalog record or on the protective cover for each title will facilitate inquiries.

Plays are controlled under the print guidelines, but the most common abuse of the copyright of plays is performance of all or part of the play to a public audience. Keep a record of any performance rights purchased with the scripts (either in the library or the department in which the play resides).

Poetry is also controlled by the print guidelines. Watch the back of the title page for copyright control information.

Images are also protected under the print and/or multimedia guidelines. Individual images usually have some notice of copyright attached to the print, or listed in the credits section if published in book form. Public display of images on web pages is an up-and-coming problem to be aware of.

REMEMBER -- when making copies, always include the copyright information from the work itself. Either copy the copyright page and include, or write that information on each copy. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act criminalized removal of copyright management information, and that includes on print copies.

Video Video will require tracking both incoming and outgoing. Know what performance rights were purchased with the tape. Public performance rights are required for non-curricular showings. Stickers on the tapes themselves make public performance tapes easy to identify to browsers. (Purchase copyright compliance stickers from library or office supply houses, or from Affordable Alternatives 800-275-2824).

Off-air video tapes made in-house should have a prominent notice stating the expiration date of off-air rights (which vary from the standard 10/45 day period to life-of-tape rights granted by certain producers to educational users). Any off-air tapes brought in from students or teachers should have a certification of eligibility signed before use.

Audio, including music Audio requirements are similar to video. Using music as background for multimedia productions will likely be the largest demand.
Computer software For software that is checked out, specific copyright notice is required. Stickers to notify borrowers of their copyright obligations are available from the suppliers listed above.
Hardware Many common pieces of AV hardware in a school are capable of being used to violate copyright. Just as unattended copy machines must have copyright notices attached to protect the host library, placing prominent notices on other machines with infringement potential is a good plan.
Local Area Network resources Networked software will also require monitoring. License tracking is available through networking software and third party products.
Internet Interpret fair use item by item using the existing guidelines. Include copyright compliance in acceptable use policies and information about copyright in all Internet training. For online teaching, make sure to follow the TEACH regulations (required participation by the School Board, IT staff, and instructors in order to avail oneself of the protections)

People dueling Managing people

Most teachers will not like a change in copyright enforcement. Dealing with the human factor will be the largest problem of copyright compliance.

Students Students, in their short excerpts in papers and incorporation of minor images in artwork or collages, haven’t been significant copyright risks for schools. New multimedia guidelines and the ability for students to publish widely on the Internet have made student use of copyright protected materials a new area of concern.

The new multimedia guidelines require that =all= multimedia presentations using copyrighted materials adhere to a set of recommendations that include opening screens which notify of copyrighted content, and credit pages listing complete copyright ownership information for each item used under fair use. When students are taught this procedure from an early age, documentation can simply become part of the creative process.

Teachers For many years the teacher has been able to use, without challenge, whatever materials s/he felt necessary or convenient. Disabusing the faculty of these notions is a monumental task. As the instructional leader of a building, the building administrator needs to take a leadership role in guiding the faculty to a new understanding of their obligations regarding copyright. This guidance can be as simple as a directive, "We will abide by all laws that affect our work." A better approach is to encourage faculty to move toward copyright compliance, with the administration taking extra pains to ensure that they model the behaviors they expect from the faculty

One technique that has worked well for many schools on the road to copyright compliance is to clear all video with the principal.

Staff Most of staff involvement with copyrighted material will be in photocopying. With the support of the administration, training the clerical staff on copyright of print material will likely be sufficient to raise awareness of what can and should be copied. Encourage record keeping.
Administrators Getting the attention of the administrator is key to copyright compliance in a school building. Bringing to their attention the materials on copyright settlements in neighboring school districts, and those publicized by copyright compliance groups like AIME and SIIA can go a long way to opening the eyes of a reluctant administrator. Knowing that the building-level administrator is likely to be named in any copyright infringement action can also get an administrator’s attention.

Here are some suggestions to get started in a school that is less than enthusiastic about copyright compliance, and which seems bent on shooting the messenger:

    1. Suggest to the principal that you track requests in one area for a grading period. A good place to start is with video use. Prepare a report to the administration to see the extent of the problem in this area. Remind them that there are many other areas with similar or potentially worse reports. Another option for tracking is to obtain a copy of the Software and Information Industry Association free program SPAudit and conduct a software audit of building computers. Seeing the results in black and white can sometimes generate significant response.
    2. Prepare a copyright notification slip that will inform teachers and others that a particular use of material (fill in the blank) is likely a copyright infringement. Make the wording helpful and informative, not accusatory. Give copies to the principal.
    3. Encourage, request, insist on a copyright policy for your building and district. Board approved policy gives you a firm footing when trying to raise the standard of copyright compliance.
    4. Educate, educate, educate. Consult with teachers as they plan units, help students document use of other’s materials in their work, help administrators consider copyright implications in non-curricular applications. Remember that plagiarism and copyright violation are totally separate and generally unrelated issues.

Copyright law may be a pain to deal with in a school setting, but picking and choosing the laws we choose to obey isn’t in our ethical or cultural heritage. Our democracy chooses to live by the rule of law, not just by the laws we like. Encouraging compliance with the law as it stands and active work to change the parts of the law we find unreasonable makes a laudable example for our peers and our students.

Note: The author is not an attorney, and none of the above should be construed to be legal advice. For answers to specific questions regarding copyright law, contact an attorney specializing in intellectual property.

Copyright 1999, Carol Simpson
Page last updated: February 19, 2008.