Kind words, relationships and communities: Reflections on recognition for my MA Copyright Award

Chris Morrison
Chris Morrison at Kings College London graduation January 2020

Today’s blog post is re-posted from the Copyright Literacy at Kent blog where I wrote a short reflection on my experiences of studying for a Masters in Copyright Law at Kings College London and the recognition that I received for my dissertation. The dissertation explored UK universities’ interpretation of Section 32 (Illustration for Instruction) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. 

I set up the Kent Copyright Literacy blog back in 2015 with the intention of drawing attention to all the work going on at Kent to help people navigate the maze of copyright law. Looking at the number of posts I’ve managed to publish since then has left me feeling slightly guilty for not really having shared as much as I’d have liked. However, the recent staff news story on my MA award has given me an opportunity to reflect on my own learning journey, and conversations with friends and colleagues I’ve had have made me think about what I think this blog should be for.

Firstly I want to recognise how proud I am of my achievement, but also that it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of others. Anyone undertaking major study at the same time as holding down a full time job needs very understanding family, friends and employers. In my case I was lucky enough to have all three of those in abundance and this was particularly important for me as I suffered a family bereavement and a broken collarbone right at the trickiest part of my masters research. In some ways though the study was a welcome distraction from both of those things which is probably one of the reasons I was able to devote the level of attention to it that I wanted to.

But it’s not just that individual achievement needs the support of a wider support network of others, I strongly believe that any major development activity like a masters is best when done with the sense of how it might help others. The thing that prompted me to look at how universities interpret the teaching exception in UK copyright law was the sense that the community was struggling to make sense of the law and that I might be able to contribute to improving that situation. I felt that copyright specialists were looking to find a strong authoritative voice that would categorically tell them what type of activity was fair and what wasn’t, where in fact the (nuanced) answers to those questions lay within the community itself. The summary of my masters dissertation (which I posted on the copyrightliteracy.org I run with Jane Secker) explains this in more depth and talks about the creation of codes of fair practice, work on which is starting to pick up pace.

And although I think the codes of fair practice have the potential to deliver a step change in UK education and cultural heritage institutions, it’s the work on the Kent copyright literacy strategy that is taking up much of my thinking at the moment. I haven’t posted much about it recently, but that’s largely because work has been going on in the background. We now have a draft document which I’m aiming to get approved by the University by the summer. Of course, there is no guarantee that the University will approve this, particularly given that we are undergoing major organisational change which is understandably taking up a large amount of management attention. But I’ve been taking the opportunity make the connections between the different strands of the draft strategy and make sure that it’s actually related to the real challenges we face across the institution.

For example, one aspect of the strategy which I hadn’t initially envisaged was the creation and support of a network of people who had an interest in copyright literacy. The group suggested this as an alternative to my original idea of creating something more like a monolithic ‘top down’ training programme or campaign. The meeting I had this week with our Academic Liaison team about the strategy made me really hopeful that it really could help us celebrate the work we’ve done already to support our staff and students as well as enable future collaboration. I’m also looking forward to running a joint Grants Factory training session with Marcus Goodall from Kent Innovation and Enterprise on 26 March. This will attempt to put copyright literacy in the context of understanding all types of intellectual property and the need to balance open practice with more controlled exploitation of valuable resources when undertaking research. And next week I’ll be talking to the student network forum to get an idea of what the strategy might mean for them.

So in conclusion, I’m looking forward to using my studies as an opportunity to support the communities at Kent through creation of a copyright literacy strategy and related guidance. I intend to use this blog to reflect not just on how copyright law works, but the challenges of trying to communicate and make sense of it in a complex, changing and sometimes scary world. I’ve received quite a few kind words from colleagues since the staff news piece and I’m very grateful for everyone who took the time to drop me a line. I’d also like to give special thanks Sarah Slowe, our Head of Scholarly Communication, for championing our work on copyright literacy and liaising with our Corporate Communications team to make the staff news piece happen. But most of all I’d like to thank you for making it all the way to the end of this blog post. If you have then it’s clearly a sign that you are committed to embedding copyright literacy at Kent or at your your own institution. I’m ramping up all sorts of activities around this to coincide with the anticipated publication of the copyright literacy strategy so if you’d like to be part of it please drop me a line at c.morrison@kent.ac.uk or via Twitter @cbowiemorrison. I promise it won’t involve as much work as completing a masters in copyright law 😉

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