Legal confusion

Stephen Marshall in his article on the collision of copyrights, technology and education (published in Innovate, 4 (5) at brings forward the real tension with concepts such as Web 2.0 and other collaborative and network-driven interactions – free use of owned materials.

He advocates for learners to be exposed to many sources and networks of learning, and the importance for them to remix existing resources and knowledge to create new ideas. He states, “in Web 2.0, that collective transformation of data generates value” (p. 1), explaining blogging and tagging are not the work of a few but many.

However, using, reusing or remixing existing materials and resources has large implications for copyright violation. Stephen hits the nail on the head when he states “economic growth and the protection of commercial interests are increasingly taking precedence over public access to information and education” (p. 3).

In order to create a balance between the inevitable laws protecting intellectual property and the need for open access to information for learning, Stephen calls for an approach such as the TEACH act. This law ensures educators respect the interest of copyright holders in exchange for access to their materials. More important, he is correct in thinking that asking for open licenses, such as with Creative Commons, is not realistic when considering materials owned by publishers or other commercial venues, as well as those created Internationally. Nor does he think that full submission to strict copyright laws or control technologies should prevail, rather as a field we should look for better arrangements that suit both sides.

I think he is proposing a good start to compromise between evolving forces and their agendas, such as with higher education, intellectual property and commercial interests, and the open, networked world. Expecting such forces to dissipate is not a viable solution – it might be best to negotiate.

Also see my article on copyright issues in the digital higher education field at:

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