Copyright and Education

Photo of a copyrighted rock

James Glover, "Copyrighted rock," available under a CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0 license at

In a recent meeting for our First-Year Composition program, I volunteered to find 4 recent readings on the topic of copyright and education. Easy, right? I’ve got tons of pages on copyright, IP, and fair use bookmarked on Diigo, and I try to keep up with scholarly conversations in the field on the stuff.

Of course, it took longer than I expected. But I’m not complaining–I was reminded of awesome stuff I had saved and promptly forgotten. So after wandering through a few options, I landed on the following four readings.

(Note: these lists of resources are shared with students in a printed textbook, with the idea that students who choose to begin researching this topic will look up the articles themselves, so at least one had to be un-Google-able, available only through our library databases. Thus the MLA citations.)

McDonald, R. Robin. “Copyright Suit Over University’s Online Reading Room Could Set Academic Use Standards.” ALM, 9 June 2011. Web. 21 June 2011.

A well-done news story of a yet-to-be-decided case that could seriously affect the way educators can distribute digital copies of readings.

McGrail, Ewa, and J. Patrick McGrail. “Copying Right and Copying Wrong with Web 2.0 Tools in the Teacher Education and Communications Classrooms.” Contemporary Issues in Technology and English Language Arts Teacher Education 10.3 (2010): n.pag. Web.12 July 2011.

A free, online, long, and Google-able scholarly journal article that walks through a number of complex issues that come up when teachers give assignments that ask students to do multimedia projects from found materials. Long, but good stuff.

Gardner, Traci. “Mixing or Plagiarizing?NCTE Inbox. National Council of Teachers of English, 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 12 July 2011.

A short piece describing a young novelist’s defense of her plagiarism as simply what this generation does. A great discussion-starter, especially when students can apply the ideas from the previous resource to this one.

Dubisar, Abby M., and Jason Palmeri. “Palin/Pathos/Peter Griffin: Political Video Remix and Composition Pedagogy.” Computers and Composition 27.2 (2010): 77-93. ScienceDirect. Web. 12 July 2011.

A scholarly piece that needs to be accessed through the databases. Full of interview data and excerpts from the work of students doing politically active remixing–so it seemed more applicable to a list of sources on copyright and education than some of the other (and super-awesome) work on IP in recent-er issues of Computers and Composition.

Remaining, wriggling thoughts:

  • I continually wondered how one-sided to be when selecting resources. I mean, I’d love to convince these students to use their fair use rights all over the place,  but this didn’t seem like the place for too much propaganda. A perfect balance would have been to include 2 really conservative and 2 really liberal views on copyright in the classroom, but the sources I had bookmarked didn’t really lend themselves to that kind of thing. But I’m not sure I made the right choice.
  • It seems obvious now, but I should have included some video demonstrating some of these principles. (Everything is a Remix, anybody?) I didn’t because I wanted to focus on education (and I only had 4 slots!), but I’m increasingly unhappy with the choice. Oh well!
  • Um, why didn’t I crowdsource this? I sent nary a tweet asking for advice. Sorry, friends; I know it would be a richer 4-item list with your help!

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