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Posts Tagged ‘copyright

There are many practices that those of us in schooling and education can learn from the rest of the world. But I wish we would not adopt military and corporate terms (e.g., SOP, ROI) without considering their contexts.

And then there are things that the rest of the world can learn from higher education. Take this tweeted news report, for example.

Unfortunately, giving credit where credit is due is not yet under Singapore’s Copyright Act. According to this news piece, we will have to wait till November and only if the changes are passed in parliament. The same article stated:

…the changes are not meant to go after the man in the street, but rather to prevent businesses from getting away with not crediting creators when profiting from their works. 

…if a person does not credit the creator of a work that he uses publicly, the creator can ask to be identified.

And if the person refuses to do so, the creator can take legal action to get credited or have the work taken down, as well as seek financial compensation from the person if there is potential income loss that can be shown.

One one hand, I am glad that the amendments require clear attribution. I know of far too many people who think that anything they find online is free to use. Worse still, they take credit when they use it wholesale or make modifications to it.

On the other, I am disappointed that the law needs to spell this out. This means that our schooling has not done enough to help make attribution a mindset. If students make their way to higher education, they almost invariably learn how to cite sources. But if their workplaces do not reinforce this practice, they unlearn it.

An interviewee in the article highlighted what he considered a potential problem:

…social media users, such as influencers who make money from their accounts, repost content such as videos and images, they could be infringing the copyrights for the content unless they can prove that they used the videos and images fairly.

This is not a problem, it is an opportunity to operate ethically and fairly. We are not asking social media creators to be academics using APA or MLA to cite and list their sources. We are merely requiring them to give credit where it is due.

This is also an opportunity for all to learn about Creative Commons (CC). Some problems with ownership and licensing are figuring out who to credit, whether you can use their creations, and how you can use them. CC addresses all three.

The news article says that the changes to our laws will happen soon. November cannot come soon enough. In the meantime, all of us can learn more about and use CC licensing.

Recently I read a kiwi teacher’s blog entry, Teachers Don’t Own Their Own Content!

This reminded me that most teachers do not seem to know that the copyright of whatever they create as employees of a school (on in Singapore’s case, the Ministry of Education) belongs to the school (or MOE).

In 2012, the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) created a handy infosheet on Copyright for Educators.

Part 16 spells this out clearly:

The copyright to works created in the course of employment belongs to the employer. Hence, while a Government school teacher may be the creator of resources in the cluster repository, MOE is actually the copyright owner. Likewise, an independent school which directly employs its own teachers owns the copyright to works created by them in the course of employment.

When the resource creator leaves, the copyright is still owned by the employer (whether MOE or the independent school in this scenario). The school can continue to use the resources, as well as control how others use it.

Our kiwi counterparts have the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing framework (NZGOAL) which “seeks to standardise the licensing of government copyright works for re-use using Creative Commons“.

I could not find a similar umbrella body or policy for Singapore. But I know of or have found local university resources that are shared under open access, e.g., NUS, NTU, SMU.

UNESCO’s Global Open Access Portal neatly summarizes Singapore’s progress in being part of the movement that offers openly accessible resources. At the moment, our contributions seem to centre around Institutional Repositories (like the ones I linked to earlier) and a vague reference to a National Library Board (NLB) initiative.

There is so much more that we can do and there is no need to wait. As individuals, we can create and share under Creative Commons (CC) licences. Creative Commons Singapore seems up to date with version 4.0 licensing as of this entry.

Presentation source

Here is something I shared a few years ago on CC with preservice teachers in NIE. It is shared under CC BY NC SA license, of course.

As a teacher or educator, you do not have the copyright to items you created. But that does not mean that you cannot take ownership of your work. With CC, you do that by specifying how others can use your work when you share preemptively.

Giving away so that you have stronger ownership might seem counterintuitive. However, all CC licenses include Attribution. You are tied to what you create even if the copyright of that artefact belongs to your employer.

The open and sharing-is-caring nature of CC is also aligned to the broader purpose of education. To free, and ideally, to offer what you have for free.

Let us say that you would like to offer video-based courses online. You propose this to someone at the highest level of management or to someone who is in charge of technology infrastructure. You are likely to be asked this question: How will you protect our copyright or intellectual property?

That question is built on at least two old premises. First, copyright is the golden standard of practice. Second, that sharing something online somehow puts us at a disadvantage.

There are other standards of practice that have already started challenging the notion of copyright. For example, there are the open resources movement and Creative Commons licensing.

Sharing resources can actually give an institute the upper hand.

If a resource is good, it helps build reputational capital. Putting a resource online time-stamps it so you can claim “who’s-on-first” ownership.

Time-stamping is not the only protection. If you create a video and share it on YouTube for example, that system will detect similarities between your video and those belong to other parties.

CeL has experienced this in two ways. After e-Fiesta 2013, we uploaded our videos to YouTube a keynote presentation by a speaker from Google. The YouTube system informed us it was similar to another video. Of course it was! The speaker had been recorded in other videos using similar slides and words.

When we put our own videos online, we often include soundtracks from stock music that we have purchased. We get the same notification from YouTube and we simply ask the company we purchased the music from to create an exception.

In both cases, we have not infringed on copyright. The videos were ours, the content can be linked or attributed to others if needed, and there was a policing system in place. Where there is an apparent copyright violation, it can be quickly contested, clarified, or resolved.

Long story short: Attempts to copy or modify work and pass these off as your own can be easier to detect when you put them online. The standards are changing and so must the practice.

Video source

Entertaining, informative and a good start for creating awareness on copyright in the YouTube age.

YouTube also has a page on fair use and it has invited users to send questions for legal experts to answer. Users get to vote for the best questions which will be answered in a fresh blog entry on 2 May.

When I saw this poster featured on 9gag, I decided to dig a little deeper.

I could not find anything in the source provided by 9gag so I Googled it. Wikipedia has a rich description on the copyright surrounding the commonly sung song, Happy Birthday to You.

If we obeyed the letter of the law, any public performance of the song would require a royalty to be paid to the owners of the copyright. This is ridiculous considering how most people would probably consider the song to be public domain.

Then there are songs that are clearly copyrighted and the artistes behind them depend on them for a living. But there are a few (like Yoko Ono) who are going with the flow of remixing or cc licensing or even giving some of their music away for free. They aren’t losing any money or fans. Quite the opposite really. Just do a Web search on bands that encourage their fans to record, distribute or rehash their songs or performances.

The same could apply to education if we shift our focus from content to learning. If education is viewed as packaging and delivering, then it seems logical to protect a particularly good process or product. But if education focuses on the learner and learning, we have no right to either process or product. As each learner is different and learns differently, we cannot possibly own every process and product they use.


The Rambling Librarian has some interesting thoughts about what he labels Digital Civics and Intellectual Respect. With the current practice of mashups, this overall concept is even more important!

My only observation is nothing new: Technology evolves so fast that our laws cannot catch up. Thankfully, rather than wait for lawmakers, people co-evolve with the technology and socially negotiate acceptable practices. If we police ourselves, we don’t need the police.

The days of copyright might be numbered. Personally, I’d like to see things like Creative Commons and FairShare become the accepted norm.

If this happens, then I think we can really get into the mode of remixing, collaborating, and knowledge creating!

The original intent of YouTube was true to the Web 2.0 ideal: Allow users to share online content that they had created. Somehow YouTube did not foresee how users would put copyrighted material online and thus breach the law.

However, a company called Autitude might have come up with a way to make just about everyone happy. Here’s a snippet from the Yahoo! report:

Auditude technology automatically identifies user-posted segments of shows, then weaves in advertising for copyright owners and tells viewers whose program they are watching.

Instead of copyright holders chasing down television shows video posted on MySpace pages and then demanding clips be removed in accordance with US law, they can let Internet users be delivery channels complete with advertising.

Copyright holders get advertising money and links back to them and users get to share without breaking the law or fear getting sued. Convenient, no?

Convenient but it is early days yet.

This is a perfect example of how technology develops so fast that laws cannot catch up, and when they do, something else comes along to alleviate or exacerbate the problem.

I like how this technology will allow users to remix, create, and share content. But from an educator’s point of view, this technology might take personal responsibility out of the equation. As of right now, if you want to use someone else’s work, the onus is on you to seek their permission. In the future, you might not need to because the original creators or authors are compensated somehow. But if these parties feel threatened by someone else manipulating their work, they might not choose to share their work in the first place. And that would take the “2” or “too” out of Web 2.0.


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