Bob Harrison recently visited FE colleges on behalf of the CLA to share information on copyright

Any mention of the word “copying” takes me back to my early days as a teacher in secondary schools in Sheffield. The smell of “Banda” fluid and the sound of that handle being turned in the stock cupboard preceded the age of photocopying, and even that now seems like some prehistoric age.

Today we are confronted with the immediacy and accessibility of digital images and resources that can make learning so much more relevant and inspiring than boring, text-based worksheets and the odd photocopy from a book or journal.

The worlds of Snapchat, Whatsapp, YouTube and Periscope bring a whole new dimension to the notion of copying materials, and the comprehensive collections of digital resources currently available are mind blowing. But what can you copy and use and what can’t you?

The rights and wrongs of online sharing

In 2015 a group of teachers from schools in England were openly sharing copyright training materials via a Facebook group run by an English exam board. Their first response when challenged was to be defensive, bordering on hostile, so legal letters were sent to them and their schools. The problem promptly stopped in that Facebook group. But did anyone outside that group hear about it?

The potential for copyright theft is enormous and widespread. A combination of recession and out-of-date licensing arrangements has led to unlawful sharing of everything from music to movies to learning and teaching materials. (You can view a 'most pirated movies of the week' chart at the Torrentfreak website.) People even buy set-top boxes that give them access to virtually every movie and subscription service, and education is not exempt from this trend.

That’s why I have just helped the Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA) as the independent chair of its Copyright Masterclasses roadshow for FE providers which aimed to raise the awareness of copyright and IP issues, but in a supportive and non-threatening way.

Revealing discussions – teachers in support

The CLA is the recognised UK collective rights licensing body for text and images from book, journal and magazine content. It is keen to make sure that FE providers get better value from the current agreements many already have in place.

awpartnerhandblueIn a series of workshops in London, Glasgow and Salford more than 100 FE provider delegates spent a day learning why copyright law and licensing is important, how they could get better value from existing licensing, about the implications of OER (Open Educational Resources) and what support they can expect from the CLA and its partners.

The CLA licences the reuse of published materials so it had invited other licensing organisations that represent audio-visual materials, such as the British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC), the Education Recording Agency (ERA) and Scotland's SCRAN. The CLA also represented NLA media access for whom it is the sole agent in the UK for all educational licensing (for media content). The Association for learning Technology (ALT) spoke about OER and the Intellectual Property Office gave the authoritative national overview.

The discussions were revealing as the CLA wanted frank feedback to better understand the FE community of educators. At one extreme were occasional complaints from those who felt that charges were excessive and were, initially, unable to see their value. But the consensus that emerged across all the meetings was that educators welcomed the licences and felt that more should be done to spread the word about what could be done to ensure that colleges could extract maximum value and develop a culture where the copyright of other educators is appreciated and respected.

The common themes that emerged from the workshops were that colleges rely on quality content and want to make full use of all available means to reproduce and share – ie photocopying, scanning, digital sharing, so they welcome licensing that helps them get more value from their resources. They are happy to discover and use Open Access content (particularly in times of cutbacks) but feel that this will not replace ‘traditional learning with traditional content’. And the ease and security of the blanket licence – one invoice, no surprises, one consistent set of terms and conditions – is very popular with overburdened staff.  

CLA 'thrilled at the response'

There was no doubt that the FE workforce wants the opportunity to share their ideas and experiences to feed into future initiatives. Details of educational copyright licences are available on the CLA website. The most important thing then is for all staff to understand their entitlements and get best value for both themselves and their students. (And there are other sources of helpful information – see below.)

picGurshSanghaUCLA's Gursh SanghaCLA education support manager Gursh Sangha commented: “It was gratifying to see around 100 further education institutions come together from all across the UK to find out more about best practice in using copyrighted content for teaching and learning, while respecting the rights of creators. CLA is thrilled at the response and will continue to provide easier access to advice about copyright in the digital age. Our thanks go out to all the other Collective Management Organisations and Open Access specialists on the panels of the three masterclasses.”

As a result, the CLA now intends to create a “copyright community of practice” for FE. Plans are already under way for a new series of workshops later in the year.

While copyright may seem a somewhat dry topic for some, it’s right at the heart of practice in FE colleges and crucial for providing learners with the very best resources. As one attendee put it: “It was very informative and we really enjoyed it, and we subsequently feel enthused and determined to establish a higher level of awareness and compliance within our college.”

Bob Harrison, who is education adviser for Toshiba Information Systems and runs Support for Education and Training, chaired the regional Copyright Masterclasses for teaching and learning in FE run by the CLA

More information

Copyright Licensing Agency (CLA)   
How licensing is organised – the different bands    
Send your FE question to CLA ‘Copyright Geek’    
For further information about forthcoming FE workshops email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.<
British Universities Film and Video Council (BUFVC)   
Education Recording Agency (ERA)   
Association for learning Technology (ALT)   
Intellectual Property Office   
OER (Open Educational Resources)   
European Union Intellectual Property Office – EUIPO  (new organisation)   

Cracking Ideas – 
(Teaching resources for issues around intellectual property/copyright from the UK Intellectual Property Office, the official government body responsible for intellectual property rights including patents, designs, trade marks and copyright) 

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