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EdTech Update





Reaction to my last rant on copyright

The introduction my friend and colleage Gail Dickinson once gave me remains the one of which I am most proud:

Doug not only pokes holes in sacred cows but drags them into public places and commits indecentSacredCow.gif acts with them.  

Uh, the library media specialist's role in copyright teaching and enforcements seems to be one of those cows, as the reaction to last Tuesday's little rant shows. A couple very well written and thoughtful e-mails:


Hi Doug


I think that much of what you have said and posted makes sense from a teaching perspective, particularly when it applies to videos made by amateurs and posted to the World Wide Web for all to see for free anyway.  

But if we are to teach the teachers and students about the ethical use of other's stuff, regardless of its format, are we in a position to pick and choose when we will be ethical or not?  Is that not a little like saying stealing from a large chain store is okay because they have heaps of $$$ and the price of theft is built into the price of the goods, but don't do it from your local corner store?  Is it okay to show a movie because Warner Bros or Fox are multi-billion companies but don't photocopy a book I've written because I am such small fry?

Even if we are not the copyright police, do we not have a responsibility to be a role model?  Under copyright law in Australia, if I direct or knowingly allow another person (student or teacher) to breach copyright I can be prosecuted as well as that person.  If a supervisor directs me to breach copyright then I need to keep a written diary to show that I was directed to do so.  (Whether any prosecutions have taken place is another issue, but certainly we are told that the buck stops with the individual not our education authority if  we are taken to court.)  

Don't know where Jamie would stand if he knowingly directed people to breach copyright - how rigorously do copyright owners pursue breaches in the US?  I know some of the multi-nationals are really on to it because there are often cases on the news here where they have tried to close down small businesses because they have used "copyrighted" names.  Two cases - the first were two ladies actually called Thelma and Louise who tried to open a coffee shop called "Thelma and Louise", and another company who thought they owned the rights to the name ugg boots but found out that that is a
generic name that has been used throughout Australian and New Zealand for ever for a style of footwear.  It costs 000s to fight these companies in court but the multi-nationals take it to the end.  Even if they lose, they've put the little ones out of business because of the legal fees.

I don't know what the US arrangements are, but here our education authorities (in most cases state education departments) pay a per student copyright fee that allows Australian teachers quite a lot of freedom in what we can use and how, and we are expected to work within these boundaries.

So, even if the rules/laws don't make sense, or we don't agree with them, does that mean we still have the right to break them when it suits us?  Are we sending the right message to the kids?

Love a good debate ...

Barbara Braxton
Teacher Librarian

 and Steve Dembo left this comment:

I speed at times, I've downloaded songs (and other things), and I've downloaded YouTube videos. While I do agree with you for the most part, the trouble is that when we're in front of students, we're not just average people, we're role models.

Typically, role models are held to higher standards than the average person. And when a role model 'bends the law', those that look up to them aren't going to know where to draw the line.

What do you do when a student is caught downloading "Horton Hears a Who" from Bit Torrent? And what do you do when that same student says, "But Mr. Johnson said it was ok to download videos. He did it on YouTube."

It's a pretty fine line. What we do in a personal life is one thing, but as educators I think we need to be pretty careful of which side we walk on.

and a stern emoticon from Barbara Coomes, professor in Perth, Australia... 

Not good role modelling, Doug! Copyright is a major responsibility of the TL. :|

Strangely enough, "attaboys"  from Tom Hoffman and Stephen Downes probably gave me more concern than any vocalized disagreement. 

While rants tend to be more emotive and less rational than are indicative of good thinking, most do contain an element of truth. I do firmly believe it is healthy to take a hard look at one's sacred cows now and again. Doing so either reinforces their goodness or changes them so they make sense again - either way a healthy proposition.

I'm still thinking on this one...

Thanks to ALL who responded. 

Image source: 




Creative spam headers

delspam.jpgI am posting this against my better judgment, but here goes anyway. Rated PG 13, I suppose.

I have to say I've been getting a huge chuckle out of checking the trap on my spam filter lately. The subject headings are getting more and more creative. Who writes these things?  Most, of course, are for male "enhancement" products, Viagra or porn. Those marketers sure know how I like to spend MY money.


Just from today. (With my comments.)

  • Huge cucumber is your riches (The LWW is a gardener so this one might have possibilities.)
  • Tired of being second best in bed? (Out of three, four?)
  • Give yourself a massive headstart (On what?)
  • Beat the odds, bed HER (Oh, they know my usual odds too!)
  • Hillari Clinton stood up for daughter (I didn't get this one at all.)
  • Huge love weapon is never too much (Love weapon an oxymoron?) 
  • Scarlett Johansson spills boobs (At least she didn't spill the beer.)
  • Now You Can Enhance Your Sex Life at the Lowest Prices (I hope somebody forwards this to Eliot Spitzer.)          
  • Massive even when flaccid (Bragging rights down at the Y, you betcha!)
  • Give her the present she deserves (What if she deserves someone who doesn't read this kind of spam?)
  • Life is unpredictable. Be prepared. (The Boy Scout Motto, if I remember. Those little pervs.)
  • Fierce and furious in bed (And fast!)
  • Enhance your wicked reputation (I'm just tickled to know I have one.)
  • Feel yourself more manly (But not in public, please.)
  • Huge tool to please your lassie (A Shillelagh? No that's Irish.)
  • Bang your way through all barriers (With your shilelagh, of course.)
  • Be the man of women's dreams (And she'll wake up screaming.)
  • No weight - no problems (Another one I don't get.)
  • Immeasurable wand of pleasure (Wasn't it Harry Potter and the Immeasurable Wand of Pleasure?)
  • Give her the time of her life (Proves Hobbs observation about life - nasty, brutish and short.)
  • She saw the fire in my eye (Which is why she threw her drink in my face - to put it out.)
  • Gain permanent gains now (Brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.)
  • Rock her socks off. (More likely rock her to sleep.)
  • Your tool is set to burst out from the toolbox. (I knew we'd gone too far with these cordless devices.)
  • failure notice (Oh, that message actually WAS from the LWW
Do you have a favorite spam subject header? Add it below - with or without commentary. Do women get the same spam as guys do?

The subversive view of copyright

It was this posting on LM_Net about downloading YouTube videos to one's hard drive that triggers this post:

This has been the subject of a lot of discussion on the Australian list because, according to the Terms and Conditions of Use, you cannot do this without the express permission of the video owner.

This is from the Terms of Use website
"You may access User Submissions solely: for your information and personal use; as intended through the normal functionality of the YouTube Service; and for Streaming. "Streaming" means a contemporaneous digital transmission of an audiovisual work via the Internet from the YouTube Service to a user's device in such a manner that the data is intended for real-time viewing and not intended to be copied, stored, permanently downloaded, or redistributed by the user. Accessing User Videos for any purpose or in any manner other than Streaming is expressly prohibited."
This was brought to our notice here when one of our members noticed that Jamie McKenzie was advocating downloading clips in an article he had written, so she wrote to him and he changed what he had written!

I have obviously been reading too many comments from people like Tom Hoffman, Peter Rock and Stephen Downes since this was my reaction...

I say go ahead and download YouTube videos regardless of what the "terms" say. Here is why:

  1. I sincerely doubt there is any case law existing that would indicate whether YouTube's statement holds any legal water. When such a condition exists, you should ask yourself if it is any harder to ask forgiveness than permission when making a decision that is questionable. If you are abiding by _most_ of the fair use indicators and it leads to a better educational experience, don't wait for permission. Just do it. (Jamie, don't be a wimp!)
  2. We should stop wasting our time fussing about this petty ante stuff. Downloading a YouTube video has about the same degree of criminality as stealing a sugar packet from a restaurant or driving 2 miles over the speed limit. Yeah, technically it may not be legal - but who really cares except those folks who never left Kohlberg's Law and Order stage of moral development. How is a kid downloading a illegal song any different from us stealing an apple from a neighbor's tree when we were young? - other than the fact we were simply mischievous and today's kids are criminals!

rant.jpgI am growing more and more convinced that we are simply tying ourselves in knots worrying about what people shouldn't be doing - especially on petty matters. (Who exactly suffers if a movie is shown in school as a reward rather than in direct F2F instruction?) Perhaps we should approach copyright to teaching people what rights they do have, about being honest when we don't know if something is legal or illegal and erring on the side of the consumer, and about using the morality of a situation rather than the legality to make a judgment. Ask me, we are genuinely in danger of creating a bunch of scofflaws out of our kids and teachers. (Read a more erudite expression of this on Joyce Valenza's blog.)

OK, have at me. Strip me of my library epaulets. Drum me out of the league of copyright cops.

But I said it and feel better for it.