Copyright, Class Websites, and Student Projects

Over the past month, I’ve been writing about the issues and resources surrounding copyright in the digital classroom.  I’ve covered Fair Use, Public Domain, Creative Commons, and now we’re going to look at specific solutions to ensure copyright compliance in the digital classroom.  Below are my recommendations for creating a copyright friendly environment in your digital classroom.

Protect Yourself!google_sites_icon

Class websites can be an amazing tool for delivering content, fostering collaboration, and sharing information with parents and students.  However, many teachers (and students) will sometimes use images and content that they don’t have the right to use.  Remember that Fair Use only covers face to face instruction, so if you’re using your website to deliver instruction, you cannot claim Fair Use.  Here are my suggestions for protecting yourself with your awesome class website:

  • Password protect your website.  By password protecting your website, only your students will have access to your instruction.  I recommend using Google Sites to build your class website because you can use page level permissions to only password protect certain pages.  This will allow you to have a parent information page that is public.  Even password protected content can still be used illegally though.  An extra precaution you can take is to convert copyrighted documents to pdf files and then disable saving and printing.
  • Use Google’s Search Tools option to find images that are licensed for reuse.  When you do a Google Image search, right below the search bar, at the end of the advanced search options, it says “Search Tools”.  The fifth option is “Usage Rights”.  Choose the licensing option that fits your needs.
  • Ask permission.  In the world of email, Twitter, Facebook, and personal websites, finding people is easier than ever.  Do your due diligence to find the authors/creators of the content you wish to use on your site.
  • Link rather than embed.  I have to admit that I’m an embedder.  I’d rather have everything right on the page in one place.  However, if you haven’t obtained permission, you could be infringing on someone’s copyright.  If you link to the original source of the content, you’re safe.  Additionally, if you’re using audio or video content, make sure that it is streaming rather than downloadable.
  • Site all works that aren’t yours!  We all learned how to cite our sources in high school, and definitely in college.  Break out those rusty skills and make sure that you’re at least making an effort to give credit where credit is due.
  • Utilize Creative Commons resources.  There are a ton of great works available that people have licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons.  Flickr and CreativeCommons.org are two great places to start.

Assigning students multimedia projects, or better yet, giving them the a menu of project choices is a great way to increase engagement and motivation in your classroom.  However, sometimes students don’t take copyright into consideration when they’re choosing images and content to use in those projects.  Using the suggestions above will make them more aware of the content that they’re using.  My final suggestion for you will not only increase the relevance of what your students are doing, but the rigor as well.

SoundCloud, YouTube, and Flickr

Either set up an account with a generic username and password for your class, or have students set up their own accounts for the sites above.  SoundCloud is for sound clip storage, YouTube for video storage, and Flickr is for photographs.  Have your students create their own images, sound clips, and videos to use in their presentations and projects.  I think it would be neat to have them set up their own accounts and license their work with the CreativeCommons licensing tool.  Have them get permission from each other before using a classmate’s content in their presentations.  Doing this will allow you and your students to build a database of content to pull from when needed for websites, presentations, and multimedia projects, and will get students in the habit of seeking resources that are copyright-friendly.