E-safety: Knowing your digital rights

All Rights Reserved*The place: A classroom

The time: Now

Teacher: So, class, that’s your homework for today.

Boy at the back: You can’t do that, Sir. I know my rights.

T: Er, sorry, I can’t do what exactly?

BATB: Set us that homework, Sir.

T: Why not?

BATB: ‘Cos it will take about half an hour, Sir, and you’re only allowed to give us 20 minutes. I know my rights.

T: OK, do 20 minutes this evening, and 10 minutes tomorrow evening.

BATB: You can’t tell me that, Sir.

T: OK, and why not?

BATB: Cos I have a right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, Sir. I know my rights.

Lights dim as the characters continue arguing. Exeunt.

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Unfair Copyright Clauses

With any luck and a fair wind, unfair copyright clauses could one day be a thing of the past -- in the UK at least. One thing which especially galls me is the insertion of a clause which deprives authors of their moral right to be identified as the author of the work.

Interestingly enough, I was looking at one of these only a couple of days ago. It was one of these article repositories that pay you a proportion of the advertising revenue  of the ads which appear on your article page. I have grave doubts about all that, which I'll write about separately, but for now the issue is as follows.

When I delved into the "small print" there was not only the usual clause which states that you hand over the copyright in your work -- which is an insane thing for anyone to do voluntarily in my opinion -- but also one which stated that they reserve the right to continue to use your work ad infinitum without having to give you credit as the author. Um, no thanks.

A recently-published report (which I haven't read yet) apparently calls for a review of contract law in this respect. It states:

Contractual waivers of moral rights are inserted frequently into copyright contracts. If these rights were made unwaivable by statute, such a persisting link between author and work might improve the author’s bargaining power.

At first glance it sounds like a reasonable idea to me, although, of course, a change in UK contract law would have no "clout" outside the UK. Still, it would put down a marker, as it were, about what is, and is not, morally acceptable in this complex area.


Academics must check contracts' effects on user rights

Review of Own-It

Here’s a question for you. If you run a website which involves becoming a member in order to use it, is it OK to ask children to sign up? If you don’t know the answer to this, it may be a good idea to head over to Own-It, and check out the facts for yourself.

The Own-It website

Own-It is a website that is dedicated to providing free advice on Intellectual Property (IP) and related issues, for people in the creative industries. If you’re a blogger, that includes you, but even if you’re not, you still need to know about copyright issues in order to guide your students (or at least to not mislead them).

Becoming a member entitles you to obtain free legal advice on IP issues (subject to certain conditions). So if someone tries to rip you off by claiming your property as their own, Own-It could be quite useful. Equally, if you’re employed and also produce resources, your employer may own the copyright rather than you (a fact I mentioned a few months ago in the article 11 Essential Elements of a Digital Financial Literacy Course). Again, guidance available on Own-It will set you on the right track.

Having spent a few minutes completing the free registration form on the site, I discovered to my embarrassment that I had already signed up a few years ago, but had forgotten! Having been reminded, I will certainly be visiting the site on a regular basis, especially as I see that one of the legal advisers is a solicitor called Nicola Solomon, who also provides excellent advice to members of the UK’s Society of Authors. I mention that because there is always a slight anxiety that advice given on the internet may not always be accurate, so seeing a name I recognise gives me even more confidence in the site.

I have a couple of quibbles about the site. I can live with the minute font because you can enlarge it in the web browser. But light green link text? Puhlease!

Also, although being able to download and use the videos provided is great, it’s a shame there aren’t instructions on how to embed them in your own website (as far as I can tell). Actually, it's a pity there aren't some embedded videos right there on the site.

On the whole, though, this is a well-resourced site on which it is pretty easy to find what you’re looking for. If you’re a teacher in the UK, you should add it to your list of bookmarked sites right now.

Web 2.0 For Rookies: Photo-sharing

"Upload your photos and share them with friends and family!" That's how photo-sharing websites such as Flickr are often promoted. But in education, there is a more serious side: photo-sharing sites make available a huge repository of pictures.

Pupils like to illustrate their work, but unfortunately all too frequently neither they nor their teachers seem to fully appreciate the concept of copyright.

Here's the deal: whoever owns a photo owns the copyright in  it. Just because they allow anyone to see it, does not mean they allow anyone to use it. Just because it's available through Google, doesn't mean you're free to use it. Bottom line: if in any doubt whatsoever, assume that you can't use it, and you should be legally safe. Do not be tempted to use something you have no legal right to. Not only might you get caught, it also sets a bad example to your students.

So at the very least you must look at the licence terms next to the photo you want to use. If it says 'All rights reserved', it means you can't use it unless you write the owner a very nice email and they take pity on you. Even better, find a photo that is free to use, usually for non-commercial purposes, and as long as you give credit to the owner.

My tools of choice are Flickr for the pictures, and the Creative Commons search engine for finding pictures with the right licence terms.

When you find a picture you like, if it has the legend "Some rights reserved", click on the text and see what you're allowed -- and not allowed -- to do. You will see something like the Creative Commons licence agreement shown in the illustration.

Find out what you're allowed to doRegardless of whether you make use of other people's pictures, I would always encourage schools to create their own repositories. After all, it's highly unlikely that other people will have taken photos of your street, your school or your neighbourhood. And even if they have, they may not be exactly right for your purposes. Flickr is free, or a modest amount for an unlimited amount of space, or you could use a dedicated hard disk or server in-house. Think about it: if each class spent one lesson a term taking photos for the school repository, by the end of the year you'd have hundreds, possibly thousands, of pictures that anyone in the school could use to illustrate their work.

You can even build in curriculum work. Depending on your subject and students' age group, have a session taking photos on the theme of shapes, or the colour green, or weather, or ... well, you get the picture.

If you do use Flickr, there are 3rd party applications which allow you to do more with your photos than simply share them with others. For example, you can create mosaics, or posters, or magazine covers. One of my favourites is Flickr Toys.

If you like the idea of making more use of photos, you know what to do: start snapping!

My photos on Flickr may be found here.