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Let’s Make Copyright Right for Education

Guest post by Mathy Vanbuel, Secretary of the Media and Learning Association. The Media and Learning Association has signed the Right Copyright petition and is also actively involved in raising awareness of copyright issues in education.

Paola, a teacher in Italy can show a DVD in class as long as its use is educational and the DVD has been acquired in a legal way. But she is not allowed to show the same programme via YouTube! Mélanie, a French teacher has to ask for permission to the rights holder to scan a page of her textbook before she can show it on the electronic whiteboard in her class. Recording a TV programme in its entirety for showing in class is illegal in most European countries. Playing music or performing a theatre play in class is prohibited in Spain. Sharing reading materials via email with your students is illegal in the Netherlands. Posting an entire article on a virtual learning platform is allowed in Belgium, but that does not count for photographs. Paul, a Belgian teacher who created a maths workbook and found a publisher to distribute it, needs to pay copyright fees to use his own materials in his lessons…

Education is increasingly digital and it is getting easier and more compelling to use digital materials in class. But copyright laws are complex and detailed, and it is almost impossible for teachers and content creators to know what they can or cannot do – not helped by the fact there seems to be absolutely no logic in the current situation in Europe.

Education is increasingly borderless, but copyright is still based on national legislation, exceptions and jurisdiction. And despite the newly proposed European copyright law, use and reuse of copyrighted materials in education will largely remain governed by national legislation, hindering the international character of education. Our students are encouraged to travel and study abroad but discover that the regulations regarding use of content and media differs completely from country to country: a German art student who studies in Italy needs to know that in Italy he cannot use a photograph in its entirety in his presentation. Fortunately or unfortunately it is not clear for the student what exactly ‘partially‘ means… MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and VLE (Virtual Learning Environments) are not limited by national borders. But what about the content that teachers put on these environments? What is allowed in the originating country of the MOOC or VLE could be illegal in the country where the students are taking the courses. As a result, in some cases content gets blocked and becomes inaccessible by students abroad. A common rule is needed to provide clarity.

Education is increasingly open: school, universities and other learning organisations are also providing informal or non-formal learning to the public outside of their own organisation. Copyright regulation may, for the moment, allow the use and reuse of certain content within their own organisation, but does not foresee the provision of access to the same content by learners that are not on campus. Regulations often apply for formal education only, while non-formal or informal institutions (for example adult education centres, as well as museums or libraries) cannot take advantage of the same educational conditions of use and reuse.

The Right Copyright campaign, initiated by COMMUNIA, states that the copyright system does not facilitate modern education. The campaign is part of COMMUNIA’s project Copyright Reform for Education and tries to increase awareness about copyright in education and wants to reform the copyright system for educational institutions and educators in Europe.

They fight for: the freedom to teach without breaking the law, for teachers to be able to use materials that will tell stories in an unbiased way, the same freedoms for all educators in the EU, a law that will allow teachers to embrace the digital opportunities that are available and that recognises museums, libraries and NGOs as having an educational function.

Educators can sign the petition Right Copyright anytime before May 14.