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Copyright in ELT: Is sharing actually caring? – Karin Heuert Galvão

Brad Meltzer, novelist, once said: “Sharing education, sharing a book… that’s what changes the world.” Working in Education has made me more open to sharing ideas, but after working for 17 years in ELT, I soon began to question myself: “What does sharing actually mean?”
I have been part of Facebook groups where teachers ask questions and receive feedback and/or comments from other teachers willing to help. Even though it seems to be a marvelous experience, I have realized that some educators use these platforms to share materials in PDF form and forget that the book they are sharing is ‘de facto’ intellectual property.
By observing these behaviors, I came to the conclusion that Meltzer had not pondered upon all the nuances of sharing vs. copyright.
Here is a list of tips on Copyright Etiquette:

  • Thinking about publishing a book? – Make sure you yourself do not download books without paying for the proper rights. Writers, editors, publishers and everyone involved in the writing process is being harmed, and you might just become one of them some day.
  • Working on a group project? – Remember to acknowledge everyone involved, especially their ideas. If you were on the other side of the table, you would certainly want to be remembered.
  • Left the group project and now you work on your own? – Ideas come and go, but some are easy to spot. Recognize the people who helped you reach your conclusions and develop your own new ideas, they may very well be entitled to its ownership.
  • Sharing a video with your class? – Nowadays you can share videos, audios and other files without letting the beneficiary download the file. You might have recorded a session of your online course for instance, I am certain you do not want everyone on the Internet to have access to it. Google Drive and Dropbox have amazing tools for that, you just have to check your settings. If you have recorded your students, you must be aware of privacy rights and consent, for example, have your students authorized you to use/share/post their image?
  • Preparing slides for your next presentation and thinking about adding pictures? – Google pictures are amazing and you can find pretty much anything to portrait your ideas, but you cannot forget to only use pictures that you can legally use for free or at a low cost. Check this website: Unless explicitly stated, all Internet found images are copyrighted and someone’s intellectual property.
  • Using an activity inspired by a book or colleague? – Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge.

I have experienced issues in the realms of intellectual property and when asking for advice from other colleagues, some have said “You should sue this person”, others said “You should talk to whom misused your ideas and make them understand what they have done”, having a background in Law helped me realized that things are not as black and white,  I, the same way as Esther Dyson, businesswoman, believe that “Owning the intellectual property is like owning land: You need to keep investing in it again and again to get a payoff; you can’t simply sit back and collect rent.” So if you buy a cheap piece of land or even get it for free, do not wail about it, because the industry will wail right back at you.

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