Building Copyright Literacy for a Global Community of Open Educators with the Code of Best Practice in Fair Use for OER

This blog post was written by Will Cross who is the Director of the Open Knowledge Center & Head of Information Policy at NC State University Libraries. He’s written this post on behalf of the team that worked on the Code of Fair Practice in Fair Use for OER which also included Professor Peter Jaszi, Prue Adler, Meredith Jacob and Dr Carys Craig, all of whom are joining us on Friday 11th June for a special hour and a half long webinar starting at 2pm BST. We hope you can join us! Will writes…..

As educators have responded to unprecedented challenges due to a global pandemic this year they have needed low-cost, flexible, and resilient materials more than ever. Open educational resources (OER) have long been recognized as a powerful tool for reducing barriers of cost and making education more inclusive. While familiarity with OER has led to more adoption of existing, high-profile OER, copyright confusion remains a serious barrier to creating new, more specialized, and more equitable resources. 

According to a recent Hewlett-funded study, only about half of faculty are aware of the application and nuances of the Creative Commons. While many more have heard something about copyright, relatively few are actually conversant with copyright’s limitations and exceptions designed to support educators. This has led to significant gaps in the body of open resources available to educators. It has also left too many educators unable to engage with the “5 Rs” of open education that should empower them to make OER “more contextual” and “incorporate the latest research in teaching and learning” – major perceived weaknesses of OER as identified in the survey. Uncertainty about the copyright rules that govern these incorporations has warped both what subjects are covered in OER and how those subjects are taught. It doesn’t have to be this way. 

Awareness of Legal Permissions from Seaman & Seaman, Digital Texts in the Time of COVID

In the United States and Canada fair use and fair dealing enable the creation of new and different OER – resilient materials that give educators the control and flexibility to meet the needs of their students and the pedagogical goals of their courses. These copyright exceptions can also empower educators to modify and adapt materials to fully meet the needs of all learners, including students with disabilities, marginalized students, and students facing emergent situations, such as disaster or dislocation. When OER authors are able to understand and rely on these exceptions, it allows them to create materials that are compelling, impactful, and adaptable.

In order to meet these needs in North America, we have developed a Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in Open Education. Building on interviews and focus groups with creators, publishers, and legal experts in the open education community, we have developed a resource that explains how fair use and fair dealing can empower educators and publishers to live up to our aspirations and build open resources based on pedagogy and inclusivity, unencumbered by legal uncertainty and anxiety.

Fair Use hits the mainstream – Jeopardy Question

Because these laws are specific to the US and Canada, however, we have also begun to explore the ways that the laws of nations around the world align to support the practices we describe. For open education to be a truly global movement the community must understand how copyright impacts these uses in different nations and across national borders. Fortunately, there is a compelling body of legal scholarship identifying the ways that international copyright treaties such as the Berne Convention mandate precisely this sort of harmony in international educational copyright exceptions, even when the specific mechanisms may differ.

Join us for an introduction to the Code and to explore the way relevant local laws can work in harmony to support open education. We will lead an interactive discussion about the Code and walk through strategies for applying it to a variety of situations in creating and using OER. We will also introduce the work already done to align these US and Canadian “fair practices” and invite participants to discuss the way other jurisdictions – particularly the UK’s fair dealing regime – align with the Code. We’re excited to talk about how the Code can support your work and knit together national copyright exceptions for a shared global body of open resources.

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