| Copyright protection is important. We need to make sure that we’re consistently adhering to the laws, not just enforcing them. Teachers can be the biggest hypocrites when it comes to this…being quick to fail a student due to plagiarism while handing out worksheets that they’ve illegally photocopied. We also need to make sure that students are properly citing all of their used works. I’ve heard a few times that, “We’re not doing a works cited page with this project.” What I hear is, “On this project, we’re going to follow the law and on this one, we’re not.” It’s hardly a consistent message. Also, teachers showing whole movies in class can be considered an infringement of copyright that’s not covered by “Fair Use” unless the school has a Public Performance Site License (which is worth investing in).
Considering my stance with copyright, it was funny that the most heated dispute I had about it was trying to convince a teacher to scan something that he felt would be a copyright infraction. He ran the copy center in the school and had machines that would scan hundreds of pages at a time. I sent down a book to be scanned and he refused because he thought that I was asking him to break the law. I pointed out to him that I was scanning the book for a child with a print disability and an IEP, making it ok to do so. He must have thought I was lying to him or, at best, was in a gray area when he clearly wanted to stay in an area that didn’t end with him getting in trouble. The good thing is, by his questioning me, I had to actually go and read the law myself to defend my stance. The law in question is the Chafee amendment. It began as a way to support the blind, but it is now more broadly interpreted to support anyone with print disabilities. It still took some persuasion on my end, but he began scanning things for the SPED department.
I earned his respect and solidified a working relationship with him, I believe, when he received a request shortly after. He was given a packet of worksheets with a request for 20 copies for a SPED teacher. There was clearly language on the worksheets that said “Do not photocopy…even for class use” (I’m paraphrasing…but you get the idea that they want you to buy copies for your students). He called me down and asked how he was supposed to respond to this. My response was exactly what he was hoping to hear, “What I was asking you to do was modify the content to make it accessible to a student with disabilities. She’s asking you to simply replicate something and in doing so, is breaking the law.” This confirmed to him that I wasn’t just trying to get him to do something unethical, but that I would be consistent in my interpretation of the law.