Web Tools: The Finding and Curation of Content / by Tyler Wood

Collaboration is vital to a robust yet adaptive educational environment. If you have learned anything from my writing, it is that we need to help each other build a better learning environment for students and teachers. This means that there will be many opportunities to borrow content created by other teachers or people. We have the world's experts at our fingertips with the internet. But we know this can be a minefield of legality. What can we use and what can we not use?

I believe the idea of copyright has been severly distorted since its inception, however. The original purpose was to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts" and has since been taken over by monetary gain. I had a friend who was an IP lawyer back in Seattle that represented many large companies in his career. I had many interesting chats with him about copyright and patents and from that I have realized copyright and patents have veered way off the path of their original intent. Not for everyone, but for many. It seems patent law and copyright law have become a chess game for very large and wealthy companies to play against each other and it has pushed the 'little guy' out of the way. The idea behind copyright and patents was to give some benefits to the inventors and creators which motivated them to create with some protection that they would not have their ideas or inventions stolen from them by a person or company that could afford to steal it and make money on that idea. These days, it has completely switched (mostly). For example, Starbucks was using their powerful lawyers to bully a small business that used a logo that was somewhat similar to theirs. If the small business was intentially using that logo to benefit from the Startbucks brand and sell something that infringed on Starbucks' business interests, then it would be a reasonable problem for them. However, this business had no intention of benefiting from Starbucks because it was a business that had nothing to do with coffee or cafes or anything else. My friend told me that Starbucks actually had no legal ground for their claim of copyright infringement on their logo, but because they had so much money, they could hold the small business in court costing them money, so they would have to bow down anyway. This is what is happening with copyright and patents in America these days. Starbucks is just one example, but many, if not most, major companies are invested in protecting things, like words, that they have full-time lawyer staff. Is that what the founding fathers envisioned? 

Thankfully, the Fair Use Clause helps us educators out and many people are working hard to protect the open internet, we may see some changes in the future, but I do not think copyrights actually do what they were originally intended to do so much anymore. Sometimes, it does. But increasingly it is not. 

Below is an interesting argument defending the original purpose of the copyright law against those that have twisted it in recent history. 

This really reminds me of an undergrad course I took about the history of science. We discussed in detail the importance of the "secrets" of science how controlling information was making innovation impossible at the time. Certain people would have a technique for metallurgy, for example, and only their apprentices could even know this technique. This helped them keep their job security. However, the point of copyright was to allow that information to get out so everyone had access to it to promote innovation, whilst still allowing the creator/inventor to have some credit and job security. Places like Pinterest, as long as they are giving credit where credit is due, are simply spreading those ideas that help lead to better innovation and a better informed citizenry. I would differentiate spreading ideas while crediting the source and claiming it as your idea. Claiming it would be dishonest and immoral, but spreading the ideas would be quite beneficial to everyone. It may not lead to peak monetary gain for the inventor, but that has never been the purpose of copyright law, until recently.

This is especially pertinent for educators because what we do fits squarely in the strike-zone of the purpose of the copyright law. We have the Fair Use Clause to protect us from certain litigation, but I do believe we should be allowed to do even more for the sake of teaching students. One of the major hurdles in the future of education is hacking. Click the button below for more details about how hacking and education go hand in hand for the 21st century.

How do you keep track of the content online? If you are culling content from the internet, sometimes it is not downloadable and must be saved in another way. one way to do that is to create a personal learning environment (PLE) where you can store your links for later use. Click below to visit mine.

Another way, one that can be used with the PLE, is tagging. Having a plan for tagging can help when looking up those links. Below is my plan for tagging content for my school.

Tagging Content