Copyright, technology and teaching

A few months ago I was honoured to find out I had been appointed to the Intellectual Property Office’s governance group, the Copyright Advisory Panel. This group is largely made up of senior representatives from the creative industries and I am the first member of the group to represent the higher education sector. The Panel provides a forum for IPO and a broad range of representatives of the creative industries to discuss issues of common interest in copyright policy making, with an emphasis on horizon-scanning for issues that might influence the government’s policy on intellectual property.

Before working at City, I was the Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor at LSE for 15 years and I still sit on a number of copyright groups in the higher education and library sector. Most significant of these is the Universities UK / Guild HE Copyright Negotiation and Advisory Committee which negotiates licensing for the higher education sector with bodies such as the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA). I had wondered whether it would still be relevant to remain on this committee after moving into my new role at LEaD, however the Chair of the group was very keen that I stayed. Most of my colleagues on the group are librarians or copyright specialists, however my broader perspective on teaching in higher education is proving really useful, particularly because I teach the modules on the impact of technology in education. So this year I have taken over as the module leader for ED116 Technology Enabled Academic Practice and I have just had a new module approved, EDM122 which is called Open Practice and Digital Literacies and will start in October 2018. These are both part of our MA in Academic Practice.

Technology has had an enormous impact on the way we all access creative content whether as teachers, students or private consumers; technology now often mediates how we access books, journals, music and movies. And, copyright and licensing issues are at the heart of how we gain access to much of this material, whether we are subscribing to content via Netflix or purchasing an ebook on our Kindle, it’s licence agreements that govern what we can do with the content – whether we can share it with others or use it in our teaching. This has really been brought home to me over the last few months as I have been studying an online course at Harvard Law School called CopyrightX. It uses the EdX platform, so in its delivery it is a real example of the power of technology to broaden access to education – how else (other than moving to Boston!) could I experience a course at Harvard. However, it touches on really key cases mainly in the US, where copyright battles are being fought – we’ve studied the Napster case, Google vs Oracle over whether the reusing of packets of Java code underlying the Android operating system is ‘fair use’, the Monkey Selfie case (can animals claim copyright in content they create?) and many, many others. I’m really enjoying the webinars each week, but also really delighted to be part of a global learning community with students from all around the world.

Copyright Celebratory cakes!

Back to the Copyright Advisory Panel and I attended my first meeting of the group on Monday 9th April – the group is chaired by Tim Suter and includes representatives from the IPO and organisations such as the Publishers Association, the Premier League, the British Phonographic Industry, the Design and Artists Copyright Society who were present at the meeting. During the meeting the group discussed specific aspects of the proposed European Directive on the Digital Single Market and the work the IPO are doing in Europe to represent UK creators and rightsholders. A useful discussion took place on how to tackle IP infringement in the UK and the role of copyright education. The group also discussed possible ways to embed copyright education into wider digital literacy initiatives in schools and universities, which is one of my key research interests. I was really pleased to be part of this discussion and to be able to contribute a perspective from higher education – to be successful copyright education has to be far more than just trying to stamp out copyright infringement and piracy. And universities do take copyright education seriously, and my view has been that understanding copyright (what I call copyright literacy) is a key part of digital and information literacy teaching, that librarians and educational technologists are involved in. I’m looking forward to my next meeting in July and also delighted because today is my one year anniversary at City!

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