My last planned post on efforts to expose children to copyright law concerns the Copyright Society of the USA. The Society states it is "dedicated to advancing the study of copyright law and related rights in literature, music, art, theater, motion pictures, television, computer software, architecture, and other works of authorship, distributed via both traditional and new media." To this end, the Society puts on excellent meetings at which copyright issues are discussed, holds a very entertaining annual meeting, and publishes a journal, of which I was once the Editor-in-Chief. The Society also has on its website a section devoted to "Copyright Kids." On the Society's website is a Copyright Basics and FAQs, which says this about fair use:
Unless you are absolutely sure, relying on the doctrine of "Fair Use" to avoid seeking Permission to copy a work is risky. Despite what you may have heard, there are no set rules about what kind of use is "fair" and what is "infringing." For example, using less than a certain number of words from an author's work does not automatically constitute fair use. Courts apply the four factors on a case-by-case basis, and one court's interpretation of the factors could easily differ from another's. Thus, it is often impossible to predict whether or not a court would find any given unauthorized use to be "fair." The best course of action is simply to seek permission for all copied material you intend to use.
In other words, kiss off fair use as a practical matter: you can sit around until Hell freezes over waiting for a response to your request, or if you get a refusal, and then what do you do? Why not use the work since the copyright owner said no, just like Nancy Reagan earlier told students.
There is also a quiz, one question of which asks the following:
You just saw the coolest video clip on the Internet, You want to download it and cut it into your own video that you have been working on. You will not use the entire video clip so it should not be a problem to use the music. True or False? If the student answers true, the student is told this is wrong. Students are told they may not copy the entire work (the facts however said the student wasn't doing so anyway), and then the students are cautioned that under fair use, one may use "a very small portion" of the work but even this will depend on the facts. If the student had read the above FAQ about fair use, he or she would already know never to rely on fair use. Where, for example, is a discussion of transformative uses, parody, satire, or cases which have permitted the copying of entire works?
There are a number of activities, including a pretend "Lincoln Middle Multimedia School Year Book, in which "Copyright Cat" helps students who want to put together a multimedia CD-ROM. The gist of the yearbook is that students have to ask permission and then follow the permission guidelines very very carefully.
The Copyright Society's effort is disappointing: it takes an extreme, and inaccurate view of fair use, and even so, urges kids not to rely on it anyway. The overall thrust is that copyright owners own all rights and if they license them, you better do what they say. I find it misleading to describe such efforts as education: they are propaganda, albeit propaganda copyright owners in good faith believe in. If you think this is a harsh assessment, read this statement from the "Why should I care about copyright" intro:
As the creator of your work, you should have the right to control what people can and cannot do with your work. In the United States - one of the world's biggest sources of creative works like movies, television shows, books, computer games, etc. -- this right to control your work has actually turned into big business, but that's what allows all the creative people around us to get paid for coming up with all the wonderful songs, shows, books, painting, movies and other great works that we enjoy. Just think of all the cool songs your favorite band wrote, the great books you loved reading, the plays, movies and television shows you love to watch again and again. These talented musicians, authors, illustrators and screenwriters deserve our respect and appreciation - and they deserve to make a living from the hard work they put into their creative works -- otherwise most of them wouldn't be able to produce as many (or any) of the songs, books, plays, movies and TV shows that you like. That's what copyright is all about. It reflects our appreciation for all the hard work that goes into creating "original works of authorship" and respect for the right of the creator of that work to control what people can and cannot do with it.
Naturally all of those creators themselves created every single part of every single work of theirs from scratch, without ever building on the work of others: if so, they were very hard workers indeed. And if you dare use more than a very small part of one of the works produced by a large multinational corporation in your Lincoln Middle School Multimedia Yearbook, you will kill the goose that laid the golden egg.
There is of course nothing requiring schools to adopt such efforts and hopefully they won't. In the current environment, I am doubtful all sides could sit down together and develop a consensus product: the Canadian experiment is one such failed example. I certainly don't think we should be teaching third graders about digital rightds management; whether there are other things at other grade levels that are properly a part of a schools' agenda, remains to be seen.