Copyright is a minefield….

The project team and reference group met last week and, having felt buoyed up by the logo, the blog, the tweets, the imminent web presence, I had to come to terms with the actual reality of sharing teaching materials in a repository. Our copyright expert guided us through this minefield with humour, and the occasional wink, but my heart sank.

It was the vision of all my lively lecture presentations stripped of the screen grabs I so often now use to illustrate a point. Maybe there is no content after the visuals are stripped down, at least none that makes sense without detailed description of the image that once sat neatly under a heading, waiting for me to extemporize about it in class. Part of my anxiety is possibly pure anxiety about sharing: what do I do in class that is of use to anyone else? Where is the real ‘content’ of what I teach and is it only evident when supported by copyright material?

In reality so much has changed in journal and book publishing over the last five years, that it’s become quite usual to add grabs to articles and chapters under what is, in the UK and Europe, fair use. Over here in Australia, context is all, but even a few days on, I find myself grasping for the correct terms delivered so clearly in our copyright presentation. My head just doesn’t want to retain this information and even though I entered into this project knowing I’d have to deal with copyright issues, I still find myself not quite listening when the subject comes up.

I’m glad I recorded some lectures last year. These are all mine and I can upload and share at will; they are actually what I said in front of my students (minus the bits cut off by automatic record after 50 minutes, or when I forgot to turn on the microphone).  There is one which may be beyond sharing, ironically on a topic I know so well (Second Wave feminism) that I should be able to give a whole set of lectures practically in my sleep. But maybe the sounds of me starting, stopping, tripping up then cracking up are as valid a teaching artefact as the better more fluid performances?

I can also share my own notes, essay questions, exams, course outlines, anything that represents my contact with students as I teach adaptations. I would find other people’s teaching materials useful and here’s hoping that the materials the project team share generates discussion and feedback and that encourages others to take a deep breath when they hear the words ‘copyright’ and ‘intellectual property’ and still dive right in.

I absolutely accept that I can only share what is mine. There may still be ways in which visual and other copyright material can form part of the repository with the rider that it remains subject to the normal copyright restrictions, unlike my work which will be licensed for sharing, reusing, adapting and comment. We all know what we really use when we teach film and screen studies and there is a balance to be struck here.

Well our job, via this project, is to find a comfortable solution, so that later this year there is something brilliant to share.

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