“Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy you will find your self.”
~ Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
I think there is some real truth to the statement above. While copying in theory may appear to be the ‘easy’ way out, most creative people build on other people’s ideas. This recent article from Time has a fantastic quote that echoes this idea:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it; they just saw something and connected the dots. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” ~ Steve Jobs
There seems to be a large gap in understanding from both students and teachers on copyright infringement when using images for posters or presentations. This is an area we should be expecting teachers to honour, just as they are expected to honour MLA format in high school, and basic ‘sourcing’ using a bibliography or other format in primary school.
Now more than ever, teachers have access to other teacher’s shared material, but many of us are not giving credit to the original creators. And not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t know how. I’ve been working on introducing Creative Commons image banks to the whole school community for this very reason. We should be, and could be, modelling daily CC sourcing methods in our own classrooms.
I recently came across a fantastic website that breaks down Copyright in Schools. For any student or educator looking to quickly find information about what is deemed ‘safe’ and ‘legal’ when using different media. As this website mentions, there is a lot of misinformation about copyright and what’s permitted or not in the digital sphere. Often this misinformation “discourages kids and teens from following their natural inclination to be innovative and inquisitive. The innovators, artists and voters of tomorrow need to know that copyright law restricts many activities but also permits many others.”
There is an abundance of information for teachers to integrate Copyright and CC education into the curriculum, but unfortunately not enough demand at the top level (admin, policy and curriculum designers) for it to be common practice. Many curriculum frameworks, such as the International Baccalaureate Organisation, are still playing catch-up to the shifting digital age, so that they can encourage and foster more digital citizenship in IB schools. But what can teachers do in the meantime, to stay current themselves and pass on accurate information and useful Creative Commons (CC) resources for students?
Earlier this year I helped co-teach a few lessons on Creative Commons Search practice and Copyright law for the G3 Digital Citizenship unit at our school. To tune them into the idea of Copyright, we watched this video and discussed the many ways they may have been unknowingly breaking copyright law.
As soon as students made the connection that the artists behind the photos, art and music they’d been ‘stealing’ were created by common people, like themselves, they were very passionate about using proper search methods and crediting all art they used. Students were thrilled to learn new tricks to filter google image searches as well as gain access to new image search engines like compfight and Creative Commons Search.
As Tricia Friedman mentions in her Coetail post The Teacher DJ , remixing content is an important part of furthering the creative process. Furthermore, she writes “Copyright laws are their very own collection of blurred lines. This case opens a door to an authentic conversation around artistry, remix culture and law. Teachers need to take these opportunities…As we find ways to invite creativity into our classrooms, it makes sense to promote the Creative Commons culture.”
From my experience, students want to execute creative play in the digital age, and we have a responsibility to explore and model Creative Commons practice. Online access to useful websites makes it easy for teachers to access information on ‘best practice’, so let’s show the artists the courtesy they deserve and credit their hard work.