Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Addressing Two Common Copyright Misunderstandings

Long time followers of my blog know that over the years I have fought many many many battles with people who think it's okay to republish my blog posts in their entirety without permission. I've been doing this for so long that at times I feel like I'm preaching to the choir.  Then at other times I feel like I'm yelling into a black hole while simultaneously ramming my head into a wall. Two incidents this week have brought these feelings roiling to the top. Rather than just vent, I'm going to try to turn these into teaching experiences by sharing them here on Free Technology for Teachers

Incident #1: A Plea for Help
On Monday I got the following email from a reader who was looking for my assistance. 
The media specialist at my school feels that it is OK to use images that have watermarks on them in her school news videos under the educational fair use copyright guidelines because they are not being used to make a profit nor are the images being distorted or changed. Nevermind the fact that they should be using images from sites that have copyright free images for educational use, is she correct in her reasoning that she can use ANY picture, including ones with watermarks, under the educational fair use copyright guidelines?
Getting this message was worrying because a "media specialist" should have a much better understanding of copyright and fair use than was is portrayed in the message above. A quick look at Stanford University Library's Measuring Fair Use should make it clear to the media specialist in question is absolutely wrong in her understanding of fair use. In short, unless the images the person is using are so unique that there is nothing else like them and she's using them in a critique or as an instructive example (for example, explaining an aspect of a Picasso painting) that's not fair use. 

Simply saying "I'm not making a profit from it" doesn't mean it's a fair use. The use has to also not diminish the artist's opportunity to earn an income from his/her work. When you use a copyrighted work with permission and without paying a royalty, you've diminished the artist's income potential. This is the same reason why you can't buy one copy of a textbook then make 100 photocopies of it and say "well I'm not making money from it." Houston ISD was hit with a $9.2 million fine after trying to use that very logic to justify photocopying copyrighted works (they eventually settled for a $7.8 million judgement). 

Incident #2: It Says Free
The second copyright incident this week is the one that really got under my skin. There's a website that was copying and pasting my blog posts and ever so slightly changing a word or to make it appear as though it was their original work. When I caught them and called them out on Twitter the first defense, in a now deleted Tweet, was "I paid someone on Fiver to set it up, it wasn't supposed to be like that." To which I replied, "It was done wrong so fix it!" The second Tweet I got from the offender was this one that shows a complete lack of understanding of how copyright and the Internet works. 

For those who can't see the embedded Tweet, this is the text of it: "Well no problem but you need to stop saying I stole it because it was free to use from your website free tech teaching so that’s not stealing or using and I will get them remove it no problem"

Just because you can read something for free on the Internet even if it is on blog called Free Technology for Teachers (a title that has been a blessing and curse over the years) doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with it. 

Resources to help your colleagues understand copyright.
I've shared all of these at various times in the past. They're still good so take a look. 

Copyright for Teachers was a free webinar that Dr. Beth Holland and I hosted a few years ago. We addressed a slew of copyright questions and scenarios during presentation. You can watch the recording here

As mentioned above, Stanford University Library's Measuring Fair Use is a great resource for teachers, librarians, and students who have questions about what is and isn't a fair use of a copyrighted work. 

In Three Lessons to Learn From the $9.2m Copyright Ruling Against Houston ISD I summarized what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistakes. 

If you have a Common Craft subscription (disclosure, I have an in-kind relationship with them), you have access to a few excellent video explanations of copyright, creative commons, and fair use. 

A few years ago the Crash Course YouTube channel did an entire course about intellectual property. The third segment in the course was about fair use. You can watch that segment here

Finally, if you'd like to read a book about getting permission to use copyrighted works, Richard Stim, a major contributor to the Stanford site mentioned above, has a book called Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off

How to Use Immersive Reader in Microsoft Forms

A couple of days ago I wrote about recently discovering that Immersive Reader works in Microsoft Forms. Immersive Reader is Microsoft's free accessibility tool that enables students to hear text read aloud. It also enables students to see text in larger size, in greater contrast, and in greater spacing. When used in Microsoft Forms Immersive Reader lets students hear quiz questions and answer choices read aloud. 

Watch my short video to see how to enable Immersive Reader and how it works in Microsoft Forms. It's important to note that anyone can use Immersive Reader and it works in Chrome as well as in Edge.

How Prevent Weird Formatting in Your Blog Post Editor

A couple of weeks ago during Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff someone asked why her blog posts don't appear correctly when copying from a Word document into the blog post editor. Similarly, formatting gets weird when copying from a Google Document into a blog post editor. The reason for this is that both Word and Google Docs include some additional "hidden" information along with the text that you actually see in your blog post editor. 

The solution to the weird formatting problem that occurs when copying from Word or Google Docs into a blog post is to use your blog editor's HTML or Text mode instead of the Compose or Visual mode. When you do this you'll be inserting just text into your blog post editor. You'll have to then manually insert any links that you want to appear in the blog post. Likewise, you'll have to manually insert any spacing or indentations that you want to appear in the blog post. 

In the following video I demonstrate how to copy text from Google Docs into Blogger and into Edublogs without creating weird formatting issues. 

Applications for Education
There are some good reasons why you might be copying from Word or Google Docs into a blog post editor. One of those is having students write essays or short articles that you want to include in a classroom blog without having to give students editing access on the blog. 

Another reason you might be writing a blog post in Google Docs or Word is because you're writing where your Internet connection is spotty. For example, there's a picnic table at a little park that I like to sit at to write when the weather in nice. The trouble is that cell phone coverage is poor there and wi-fi is completely unavailable so I'll write in offline mode in Google Docs then copy and paste into my blog post editor when I do have Internet access.