CC Policies for All!

For a few years now, we at CCANZ – that’s Elizabeth and me and a broad community of volunteers – have been working on a sprawlingly ambitious project that has since become known as ‘CC in Schools.’

To date, the main part of CC in Schools has been advocating for individual schools to pass Creative Commons policies. These policies, approved at a Board of Trustees level, simply give permission for teachers to share their resources using a CC licence. We’ve written about this a tonne–including in just about every teaching publication in the country–so I won’t go into it now.

We’re pretty happy with the progress. We’ve got around 100 schools on board – and probably quite a few more that haven’t got in touch with us – including some of the largest schools in the country, such as Hutt Valley High School, Burnside High School and Middleton Grange. We’re going to continue to beaver away, and are working at partnering more formally with some of the bigger educational fish in Aotearoa, to help scale this work to every other school in the country.

So We Have This CC Policy…

But the point of these CC policies was never just to have some nice-sounding pieces of paper in various school policy packs. CC in Schools was (and is) motivated by a desire to: a) make it less risky for teachers to share their work; and b) grow a commons of open educational resources. This will save time and money and ensure that the best resources in the country are available to anyone who wants them, free of technical, price and legal restrictions on reuse.

In advocating for these policies, we’ve faced one basic hurdle – and, by the way, this hurdle is categorically not that schools and teachers don’t want to share their work.

It’s a hurdle that’s best summed up by a lovely cartoon that Jessica Coates, from our mates at CC Australia, likes to use in her presentations. It’s something that all of us (except, perhaps, for IP lawyers) can sympathise with:

Copyright Law

Slide 12 from “Open Access GLAM” by Jessica Coates. Made available under a CC BY 3.0 unported licence.

Do I Really Have To Think About Copyright?

So, here’s the hurdle: most people just don’t want to spend their time thinking about copyright. Those who dip their toes into the copyright waters tend to find out pretty quickly that copyright isn’t intuitive; it isn’t common sense: and it doesn’t work in the way that many people would like. They also find that some parts of copyright — like permitted uses for educators — can get quite complex, and they generally have a hard time getting straight answers (sometimes because those straight answers simply don’t exist).

Copyright discussions also have a habit of becoming overly moralistic (‘stealing’, ‘ripping off’), technical (‘see section 21.2 of the 1994 Copyright Act’) or otherwise devolving into a lecture (‘In 1709, the Statute of Anne…’).

Some of this is unavoidable. Copyright isn’t going away, and unless New Zealand decides to adopt more liberal and broad fair use exceptions in our upcoming review, some of the complexity isn’t going to go away, either.

Spend Less Time Thinking about Copyright

But some of it really is avoidable. A big part of the problem with copyright and educational resources in New Zealand is that creators effectively outsource thinking about copyright to the end user. Even when works are made to be freely shared and adapted – like many educational resources – the user has the burden of figuring out whether their use is legal. They may choose not to use the work at all; they may use it, and risk breaking the law.

This is why we need more creators to use CC. It brings me back to one of the goals of CC in Schools (worth keeping in mind with policies like this): to grow a commons of educational resources where the end user doesn’t need to think about copyright. All they need to is follow the human-readable licence terms.

Using CC licences can reduce the amount of time teachers (and others) spend thinking about copyright, and also reduce any legal risks, by ensuring that the people using your resources know exactly what they can (and cannot) do.

This is obviously a challenge. While large sharing portals are making it easier than ever to add a licence, it can seem like One More Thing. But remember: by adding a licence, you’re ensuring that others, further down the line, can spend less time thinking about copyright. And that, I think, is something we (and maybe even lawyers) can all get behind.

Matt McGregor is the Public Lead of Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand

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