31 March, 2010

Don't ask "can I" ask "how can I"

I have noticed during my long career as a school librarian (almost an entire term now), that school librarians seem more likely to ask the question "can I?" when dealing with technological or legal issues.

As in "Can I use this youtube video in class". This is problematic (it seems to me) as the answer that is easiest to give to that sort of question is "no". A no answer is completely safe from a legal standpoint. However, from an educational standpoint it is a crappy answer. Especially as most of the people who are going to answer your question for you are not specialists in the field you are interested in.

Your principal is not a digital media specialist.
Your IT guy is not a copyright lawyer.

I would like it if School Librarians (and teachers themselves) started phrasing their question "How can?"

As in "How can I legally use this youtube clip in a mashup". That way, you are forcing the person you are asking into a different mindset. They may have to answer "I don't know" but they are then admitting they don't know rather than giving you a default "no".

From there, you can move onto finding out the real answer.

You can create mashup works using videos covered by a creative commons licence or of “insubstantial portions” (the words of the act) of a copyright work.
You can get permission from the copyright holder to make use of their work, you could be covered under your educational licence.

Parody and satire do give you another exemption. You can use copyright material for the purposes of parody and satire without permission, provided your use is fair. This would include things like the Hitler videos which were all the rage on youtube recently, where the use of the original work was necessary for the parody to succeed.
(It is worth noting that the act does not define parody or satire, but that probably doesn't mean you can invent your own definition).
You can also make use of an original work without permission if you are doing it or the purposes of criticism or review. So a student could make a video where they analyse works as examples of film making or style and could extract examples from the work they were discussing....

I've been watching this mindset online in the questions TLs are asking each other, but I suspect that the same passive questioning is being used when we ask for;
new shelves,
bay ends,
a bigger budget,
money for a visiting author
a week off to go to a conference...

And that is my thought for the day.
Thank you, come again.

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