Librarians are concerned with copyright because we seek to protect not only the rights of others, but our right to freely allow others to borrow materials. There has been much discussion about eBooks and Digital Rights Management (DRM) but in discussing these new copyright issues, we often forget that there are still an issues with analog media and copyright.
International School Librarian face a unique challenge because many of us are in countries where copyright is not understood, or if understood is simply winked at.
Among some of the scenarios faced:
—A Principal might argue its “cheaper” to buy one workbook and copy it section, by section as the students need it rather than pay the extra expense (mostly shipping) to have a workbook for each student. [When in fact when you factor in the cost of toner and maintenance on the photocopy machine it could be more expensive to follow this path].
—A drama teacher might not want to navigate the hoops of acquiring international performance rights for a play, and puts it on with photocopied scripts and without a license.
—A computer teacher wants to upgrade to the new version of an operating system, but its prohibitively expensive, so bootlegged copies are purchased.
—A English teacher wants to show a film in class, but it is not available in the country. Shipping would take too long, so it is downloaded from the internet to be shown in class.
While these scenarios are not unique to International Schools, I think some of the factors that lead to it are unique.
Budgets come into play quite a bit when dealing with the “why” of copyright violations. Another factor is in fact ignorance. Many people don’t understand the complexities of copyright and how “fair use” comes into play. As Librarians we are positioned and have the training to explain copyright and how to play by the rules (as it were). Often it is hard to understand why copyright needs to be followed. Many of the major universities in Asian countries have students who purchase books from bookstores off campus. Yet they are photocopied and cheaply bound in cardstock for the students to use. While it is not policy to encourage this practice, many of my friends who have studied in Asia report they are told by the Professor on the first day where to get the books from off campus because they are cheaper. This practice not only violated copyright but is an affront to their colleagues in other institutions who thereby do not make money from the practice of bootleg textbooks.
We can be the voice to explain the how and why of copyright to the faculty, staff and students. We can explain its importance and what we can do to respect it. When teaching students about citations and searching, you can also talk about copyright and how plagiarism is stealing, and so is violating copyright. You can remind your teachers about public-domain resources they can use instead of illegal avenues. You can explain fair use and provide helpful links to checklists and simple explanations. There are a myriad of ways we can help our client base understand and respect copyright. We have to ensure that we ourselves are following copyright laws so we can speak from a position of authority and clarity when we need to.
Perhaps the biggest reason we must be vigilant about copyright in a school setting is this: We cannot expect our students to fully understand academic honesty and respect for intellectual property when they are being taught from materials that were obtained in violation of copyright; To do so is hypocritical.