The September session of Provisions Teaching and Learning Series was titled Teaching with/about Copyright and Intellectual Property.  The three presenters touched upon the changing copyright laws, the college’s specific copyright policy, how they have dealt with the copyright laws in their specific fields, and why we must exercise our fair use rights.

John Ellis, Executive Director of Information Technology Services, started off the presentations by acknowledging the struggle faced by educators that copyright laws present.  The struggle he explained comes when educators must try and maintain a balance between the obligation to abide by the federal copyright laws and the simultaneous obligation to their students to support, not hinder, their academic endeavors.  He spoke about the College of Saint Rose’s copyright policy history, mentioning that it was not until after a few RPI students got hit hard with government fees for illegal file sharing that the college decided a policy needed to be put in place.  The college needed a policy to both protect the institution (students and faculty) and avoid any negative publicity.  John admitted that most people do not get caught for copyright infringement, but gave the analogy and warning that it is like speeding on the highway: people do get caught, and when they do there is a hefty fine.

John noted that the copyright laws have changed and continue to change, and that it is time for the College of Saint Rose to revisit its own policy.  He encouraged any faculty who would like to be part of revising the college’s copyright policy to come to the copyright workshops.  At these workshops, there will be an opportunity to look over the current copyright policy and construct new ways to reinforce and expand the college’s fair use rights.  The workshops will be held at Lally Symposium, and the upcoming workshop dates are:
Tuesday, September 25th at 2pm
and Monday October 1st at 10am.

Ian MacDonald, from the Department of Computer Science, presented on how copyright laws are affecting teaching in the Computer Science field.  Ian discussed how computer programs are copyrightable, which can often be restricting (for instance when you need to have access to a very specific program to view a document), but that the Computer Science field is moving towards an open-source philosophy.  What this means is that there are a range of development tools that are completely free to students, faculty, and developers.  It also means that lectures, class notes, and educational presentations can be made available in open-source formats (some colleges have already begun to do this), which is significant in that anyone around the world can be a student and essentially take these online Computer Science courses for free (minus teacher interaction).  Ian ended his presentation by stating that not all companies are moving towards this open-source philosophy, such as Apple and Microsoft, which is a step backwards.  You can find his presentation slides here: Provisions Presentation 9-18-2012.

Kim Middleton, from the Department of English, began her presentation by describing the “copy-and-paste world” that technology has been ushering us into, as well as the “plagiarism monster” that plagues it.  Part of this copy-and-paste world that Kim addresses is known as video “remix culture,” which has caused an explosion of amateur creativity where there is a re-purposing and appropriation of others’ copyrighted work.  Here you can find the examples she provided of what “remix work” might look like.  One of the most important components of video-remix creation, Kim states, is that the new piece of work fundamentally transformed the copyrighted material, using it for a different purpose, intent, and value than that of the original.  Kim then described a sample three-step project that would help educate students in the best practices of fair use and become more responsible digital citizens.  Step one involved providing the students with fair use information.  Step two involved having students judge whether or not they think specific examples have followed the codes of best practice in fair use.  Step three involved creating their own “remixed” piece which would be followed up by a reflective essay in which they essentially defend their piece with reference to their fair use rights.

Overall, all three presenters made one thing clear when it comes to our fair use rights: we must use them or lose them.

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