Copyright and creativity: how to teach students to make sound judgments

Lisa MooreThis week’s guest blog post is by Lisa Moore who is the Programme Manager (Digitisation and Copyright Compliance) at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA). She writes about her experiences of teaching creative students about copyright issues.

I work in an arts institution and am so very lucky to be surrounded by creative and inspiring people everyday.  We are in the business of encouraging creativity, pushing the boundaries, supporting true innovation, and challenging our perceptions of the world around us.  With this in mind my role of ensuring copyright compliance at UCA may seem formidable.  However I have discovered that embracing copyright rather than shying away from it has been incredibly liberating and more than any new hairdo, a great confidence booster.   This is something I continuously try to impart to our students.

Start Positive

When amendments to the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, came into affect in 2014 there was lots to be positive about.  Librarian colleagues had fought hard to make sure the changes became a reality so I was determined I would encourage future artists, writers, designers, makers to fully utilise (and dare I say push) what had been achieved.  One of the most positive changes was the introduction of a new exception for Parody, Caricature and Pastiche, under section 30A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.  So this is where I begin my workshops with a clear positive statement on how you could potentially use other people’s in-copyright work legitimately. The wonderful thing with the Parody, Caricature and Pastiche exception is it begs to be illustrated with visuals, which our students love and the more topical, funny and even controversial the better!  I show video examples by Cassette Boy and an old favourite is a LEGO parody of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer created by stop-motion animators Antonio and Andrea Toscano.

Pacman jaws

Pacman Jaws by Koen Mostert licensed under CC-BY-ND available at:

Still image examples like this wonderful poster entitled “Pacman Jaws” by Koen Mostert are engaging and available for use under the Creative Commons licences (this one is CC BY-ND 2.0).

Making Judgements

The examples above are useful as they demonstrate where the creators have used limited amounts from an in-copyright work, which leads to a discussion around fair dealing and the requirement to make judgements when wanting to use third party materials.  With a bit of a steer the workshop can then progress to discussing that old chestnut, inspiration vs plagiarism.  Again examples are really helpful here and inviting students to start to make judgements as to whether someone’s copyright is being infringed is something I see as valuable skills to start developing.  One example I talk about is the Fischli & Weiss vs Weiden+Kennedy (Honda ad, 2003) case.  In 2003, advertising agency Weiden+Kennedy created an advertisement to promote Honda cars, it appears to have been inspired by the 1987 film, The Way Things Go, produced by artists Peter Fischli & David Weiss.  You can read further information on this case here,

I show students both the Peter Fischli & David Weiss film and the Honda advertisement and ask them to make a judgement.  Was it inspiration or infringement?

Some History and Some Perspective

My parents and grandparents (and probably everyone’s come to that) insist on telling me “we’ve never had it better”.  I must be turning into my parents as I now remind students of how far UK Copyright law has come and how they’ve never had it better!  I don’t provide a long history lesson but its worth a comparison of how artistic work was protected (or wasn’t) with the Statue of Anne and the Copyright Engraving Act, with how it is protected now under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.  Of course they didn’t have the Internet complicating things in the 1700s but that’s a discussion for another time.

For UCA, and myself, a fundamental skill we are trying to cultivate is for students to have an awareness of copyright, embrace it, so that they can make sound judgements.  It takes time and persistence but ultimately it is something that will give students a competitive edge in their creative disciplines once they’ve left University.

On peril, privilege and the copyright literacy UK tour


Dragon by T. Cowett licensed under CC-BY

It’s been a busy couple of week’s for us at UK Copyright Literacy Central. We’ve been writing up our research on librarians’ experiences of copyright for a journal article, editing a book chapter for the Routledge Companion for Media Education, Copyright and Fair Use, and working on a few presentations and proposals for up coming events. Yesterday we delivered a webinar for the European University Institute in Florence for a group of researchers and today we’re off to the University of Manchester to run a session as part of their PGCert module on Open Knowledge in Higher Education. We’ve developed a new workshop for academics to help them see the importance of copyright at various stages in their career, inspired in part by our new game the Publishing Trap.

We were also delighted to both be asked to write and editorial for UKSG’s eNews publication. My editorial on Peril and Privilege and why we all need copyright literacy is available already, and Chris’s is due to be published later today [Update – It’s now available here]. He’ll be responding to my points, writing about the creative tensions that copyright leads to, and how we work to overcome what might be seen as irreconcilable differences between rightsholders and the education community.

But back to peril (and if you’re wondering why I’ve included a picture of a dragon above see last week’s guest post from Mark Summers), I include some points from my editorial below:

‘Copyright is a topic librarians ignore at their peril’ was the headline from the December 2016 issue of CILIP Update as part of a review of two recent books on copyright for librarians by copyright greats in the library world and fellow colleagues on the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) committee Paul Pedley and Tim Padfield. Don’t get me wrong, these are incredibly important books, but ‘peril’ I found myself wondering, what sort of peril? I think copyright is important, it is after all what I spend half my job working on, but I wish headlines like this were not common in library literature. Of course copyright matters, but the idea that ignoring it will bring about peril is part of the problem with librarians’ love / hate relationship with copyright. We need to stop viewing it as something to be feared or that might get us into trouble.

I guess that was my key point, copyright is not a peril, yes it’s about risk, but risk can be managed and people should be supported and encouraged so they don’t do what many of us do when we don’t like something; avoid it! I went on (for those who know me, I can do that!):

Copyright is a subject that has fascinated me for most of my professional career. It would be fair to say that I fell into copyright work, but it’s become a deep relationship that for me lies at the heart of what librarians and information professionals stand for. I would be lying if I said I spent my time at library school reading up on copyright laws and studying it endlessly. Librarianship appealed to me because of the idea that I could help people get access to knowledge and information. This is still what still excites me about the profession; information and knowledge gives people choices, it empowers them, but it’s not just about information in a vacuum, it’s the ability to know how to use, analyse and make sense of information, but also to question what else is out there, what information hasn’t been found? Knowing how researchers engage with information and use it to underpin their work is really important. And when some information is behind a pay wall or collections are not online, copyright issues can potentially limit how people can use information. This for me is why information literacy is my real passion but, also why copyright issues and specifically copyright literacy, matters as much.

So it’s not really about copyright for me, it’s about access to information really, but anything that gets in the way of that, for me, needs to be tackled head on, as I said:

…. I became curious about why others seemed to avoid copyright. This led me and Chris to first survey and then carry out interviews with librarians to find out more about their professional experiences of copyright. The idea that many colleagues shy away from this topic and are fearful of it was worthy of investigation. We are finding out some pretty interesting things, that go beyond the simple idea that copyright is the law, and getting it wrong might land you in trouble. There seems to be something inherent in copyright that leads many librarians to be ideologically opposed to it. Is this because copyright laws are seen as restrictive, all powerful and largely about protecting the rights of big business, rather than the ordinary library user? We don’t know yet, however, I think the view that copyright restricts what you can do with information is why librarians need copyright literacy. In particular they need to be clear about copyright exceptions, as there are a whole series of them that relate specifically to activities librarians are permitted to do, from copying for preservation purposes and making accessible copies, to operating inter-lending services. We have a lot of privileges, and rather like librarians who champion for freedom of speech or who are anti-censorship, librarians need to be interested in copyright for political reasons.

So now we get to the heart of it, it’s political, it really matters, and I end my editorial by saying:

I recognise that copyright issues can be difficult and librarians sometimes feel personally responsible, however we need shift our focus back onto our underlying mission. It’s not us that matter! It’s about the communities and the people that we support and how they learn and develop. ….Librarians have an important role as copyright educators and champions of freedom, but they do not need to fear copyright, they need to embrace it as part of the wider information literacy initiatives they offer, to support and empower others.

So there you have it! I bet you can’t wait to see how Chris responds!

Criticism and review in higher education: here be dragons?

Mark Summers

© Den Denyer

This week’s guest post comes from Mark Summers, who was copyright officer at a UK university for a number of years, before leaving to undertake a PhD (in music). He has a PGDip in copyright law from Kings College London (KCL). This post comes in two parts: the first is theoretical, outlining Mark’s view of fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review; the second will be more practical, looking at the question of post-exam etheses.

Part one: a pragmatic view of the criticism/review legislative permission.
My time as copyright officer was spent giving advice and training, all the time trying to help members of the university to think about copyright in a helpful way – helpful to both themselves and the university – rather than talking abstract law at them and hoping something would stick. I spent the first 2 years doing the KCL copyright course, meaning that my knowledge of the law grew as I settled into the job. One big effect of this was that I was questioning my practice on a daily basis, and as a result I changed my views and advice, especially in the key area of fair dealing for criticism and review.

In a nutshell
We can be too self-restrictive in our view of what we can and cannot do with copyright materials in UK academia. In my opinion, if we are writing in a suitably academic way (smallest quotation necessary, properly cited) then we are covered by the permissions given to us in law.

What are we talking about here?
Copyright is a monopoly that was originally designed to encourage authors to publish, but not a total monopoly. As it stands now, there are important limitations that go a long way towards stopping that monopoly being abused by copyright owners (otherwise the rights granted in law could stop any copying/further use that is not directly authorised by the owners). Here, I am particularly interested in the monopoly limitation that allows for an easy back and forth between authors, namely fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review.

(You may have noted that I didn’t call it the criticism/review ‘exception’ or even ‘defence’, but “legislative permission” and “monopoly limitation”. Criticism/review is there for us as (re)users, it gives us permission to quote other people’s work, and it limits copyright owners’ ability to stop us when our use is fair. This is our law, and it isn’t something to be afraid of.)

That’s all very well, but surely thinking we can use anything we like is risky?
Sure, there be dragons, but are they as real or as big as the map suggests?


© Mark Summers, (after Ebstorf Map c.1450 – see

That’s a bit Tolkien – please explain.
Copyright can be daunting. A lot of information/definitions that would be useful in practice are absent from the legislation. Take “substantial part”.

When providing training, there is often much talk of substantiality right at the beginning, the first decision you have to make. However, we can just ignore this question by assuming that whatever you are going to do is indeed using a substantial part of the copyright work(s) (one judge said that we make it substantial because we consider it worth copying). Poof! First dragon gone.

The second, bigger dragon is whether our use of the copyright work(s) is covered by legislation, or whether we have to get permission from the copyright owner – whether it is fair dealing. Two big, dragon-y words. We know that ‘dealing’ more or less means ‘using’, but ‘fair’ is much trickier. Legislation is no help, and case law can be somewhat impenetrable.

A couple of things to note are that fair dealing provisions:
1)  are general, but some only apply to certain types of work (eg. you cannot freely use a photograph to report current events)
2) only apply to approved purposes (research, criticism, review, etc.)

However, the purposes we are talking about here, criticism and review, are approved purposes and apply to all types of work. Which is good.

When using other authors’ work in academic work, we are used to writing in a particular way. We take existing literature, we might give a general overview of an argument, perhaps directly quote it, then discuss it, probably pointing out the good and bad bits as we see them, or just using it as evidence in support of another argument we are making. We would normally quote only the minimum we need to make a point (otherwise the manuscript probably comes back with “excessive quotation” in red), and we put in a citation to acknowledge the author(s) and to allow others to find our source.

We can see the principles of minimal quotation and suitable acknowledgement now written into the law as Section 30 (1ZA). This should give us confidence.

When thinking about what to include without asking permission, we could cower and offer up the human sacrifices that we think are demanded of us by the dragons (I suspect that many of us do). However, my big question is whether we need to or not. The nature of academic writing is such that we use the minimum, we cite the source – my opinion is that when we do it properly, it is almost certainly covered by criticism / review.

And that’s just the legislation.

Some helpful case law
We have a powerful anti-dragon spell given to us in the case of Pro Sieben v. Carlton. The judgement in this case tells us that we do not have to directly criticise or review a particular copyright work to be able to use it as an illustration of the type of thing that we are criticising/reviewing. Pretty useful.

A better question then?
We need to check whether the dragons are real or if we are imagining them. In conclusion then, the question that I keep coming back to (and which prompted this post) is this:

When does the law NOT give us permission when using copyright works in a proper academic context?

[Disclaimer: I make no warrant that the dragons do not exist. In a similar vein, this is opinion, not legal advice. If you want to be pretty certain, get advice from a qualified solicitor or barrister. If you want to be absolutely certain, bring a case that goes all the way to the Supreme Court.]

Call for European copyright reform to support education

Copyright and EuropeWe recently contributed to, and added our signatures to a letter to MEPs drafted by advocacy group Communia calling for reforms to European copyright law. The context of this is the proposed Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market which aims to update areas of European copyright law which the 2001 Information Society Directive either failed to address, or predict (16 years is a long time these days). There are a number of proposals intended to support teaching and learning in a 21st century context, and the letter is a good opportunity to remind MEPs that copyright law has to support the activities of teachers and students as much as it should serve commercial interests.

Whilst we feel that the primary focus of is on interpreting and explaining copyright law rather than advocacy, we think this is an important message to send to law makers. And even though the UK will be leaving the EU, it is still likely that we will be bound to at least some of the legal principles given that UK law has been under the European copyright acquis for more than two decades. Of course for many educational institutions, teachers and students the reality is that their activities take place across national borders, and reform of the copyright regime is really important to allow innovative ways of conducting teaching and research.

The list of signatory organisations is growing and the deadline for those who want to add their names is next Monday 6 February, 12pm Central European time. Get in touch with Lisette Kalshoven ( if you want to be added to the list.

London and South Eastern Copyright Community of Practice – inaugural meeting

Monique RitchieThis week’s guest post comes from Monique Ritchie, the Research Librarian and Copyright Officer at Brunel University London. She was one of 18 university copyright officers who attended the first meeting of the London and South East Copyright Community of Practice on 17th January at London School of Economics. She tells us more about this event.

Where’s a CoP when you need one? 

The answer? Probably nearer than you think! I’m now a member of my local copyright CoP (Community of Practice, that is, and nothing to do with law enforcement!) a newly formed group of HE copyright professionals in London and SE England set up by Jane Secker (LSE) and Chris Morrison (Kent). At the inaugural meeting held on 17 January 2017, Chris shared the compelling rationale behind communities of practice, a term coined by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, as an age-old means of sharing knowledge and good practice. They exist in any context you care to think think of, like parent and child groups, except they’ve simply been called different things, or perhaps haven’t even recognised as being a ‘thing!’ Many are informal while others are consciously formed networks, often to meet an organisational need.

The London and South East Copyright Community of Practice aims to support HE copyright practitioners in a useful way. So many of us work alone in our  institutions, often juggling copyright responsibilities with other roles, so it’s vital to have a forum where we can learn from each other, bringing real world issues and experiences to the table, thrash out our interpretations of copyright regulations as applied to our own variable scenarios, benefiting from multiple simultaneous perspectives – a collective brain! And if that isn’t reason enough, there was cake!

There won’t be any minutes or presentations, or shared lists of attendees – there are workshops for those. This is a closed group, open only to practising copyright advisors in HE, rather than simply those with an interest in copyright issues. It’s also further limited by geographically by necessity, as effective participation would be affected if the group is too large.

A good yarnball-of-string

We kicked off with an engaging icebreaker to introduce ourselves. With a neighbour holding a tangled ball of string (a fitting analogy for copyright), we took turns to each pull out a strand, winding it round a finger while talking about ourselves and how we got into this field until the string ran out. What was really interesting about this and perhaps a sign of how comfortable everyone was, was that many of us continued to speak after they’d run out of string! It struck me that a common thread (sorry!) in many of our stories was that we are drawn to copyright because we’re really passionate about trying to make sense of it for our colleagues, academics and students.

Even if some of us felt a bit self-conscious at the beginning, we got to know a bit more about our fellow community members than we might have done, and it really helped us bond.

Ground rules

lse-cop-copWe also discussed and mutually agreed some ground rules. Chatham House Rules apply, in that we are free to use the information shared, without identifying who or what institutions shared it. (Jane and Chris have both consented to being identified in this post as did I). It was established early on that there would be no such thing as a ‘silly’ question, that is, that any question is valid and can be asked without judgment or recrimination. Members can rely on it being a safe and confidential space where we can bring and share real world queries and guidance materials, in a supportive environment. Oh, and most importantly, I believe it was agreed that someone would bring cake to every meeting. As if talking about copyright wasn’t enough of a perk!

Then we got stuck into some everyday copyright issues, such as how we were handling third party copyright in theses. In fact there was such a detailed discussion of institutional practices, that we overran and needed to carry over some topics (lecture recording) to the next meeting. However I found it invaluable to dedicate quality time to really exploring the issues in depth, and finding out what others were doing and why.

Food for thought: third party copyright issues in theses

One area we discussed was that although copyright exceptions generally allow a student to make use of copyright material in their thesis, it isn’t always clear whether archiving it in a publicly accessible institutional repository (as required by many of our institutions’ regulations) would infringe the copyright of any third party content within it. Some HEIs require student authors to check and get clearance for third party content for archiving while others scan theses looking for third party content themselves. Clearing rights can be time consuming, and one view was that the author is best placed to do this as they would know where and what the third party content is. However another institution felt that requiring students to clear the rights put a lot of pressure on student authors. Another felt that there wasn’t cause for concern, as content within a thesis is not easily accessible or searchable, so unlikely to harm rightsowners’ interests, while others routinely redacted third party content where found. Then, someone raised the use of images for research in a thesis, as an example of a work where applying the exceptions was less clear cut. This is because reproduction of images usually means using the work in its entirety, making it less likely (according to IPO guidance) that fair dealing exceptions would apply. If a thesis is stuffed with images, applying for clearance could be hugely onerous and potentially costly for the author or institution.

We didn’t have enough time to make it through the agenda, as we could quite easily spend an entire session talking about any single issue. However, being able to do this made it easily one of the most useful meetings I’ve been to in a while. Did I mention there was cake?

Copyright, the future and Brexit

iCopyright exceptions: the jigsawWe’ve now been to two recent events on the future of copyright in the UK following our exit from the European Union. Whatever your views on Brexit, and like many in HE we were firmly in the remain camp, we can’t deny it will happen. However in recent years much of UK copyright legislation has been amended following directives from the European Union. And there are important new changes going through the European Parliament currently on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. On 12 January 2017, the Commission’s proposal was debated by the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) And just today EIFL issued a statement on the need for copyright reform across Europe, supporting the statement issued by five key organisations (including LIBER, and the European Universities Association) on ‘Future-proofing European Research Excellence‘. This statement similarly calls for more change to copyright to give Europe a real opportunity to become a global leader in data-driven innovation and research.

So what does the future hold for copyright in the UK? In October last year I was interested to read this blog post from Professor Alison Harcourt of Exeter University. However, we thought we would share a few thoughts from recent events. Firstly in October last year we attended a meeting at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) to discuss the copyright implications of Brexit on the higher education sector. Then earlier this week a conference organised by the Journal of Intellectual Property, Law and Practice (JIPLP). Both events were an opportunity to understand more about how important copyright and IP are particularly in the context of international trade but also the increasingly global education offered by the UK. In both meetings all agreed that following Brexit the UK would not have the same relationship with the Court of Justice of the EU, but no one was clear if decisions of this court might be taken into account by English judges. There were references here to important cases on issues such as whether hyperlinking is copyright infringement (see Svensson, BestWaterGS Media and a helpful table of the implications by Dr Eleonora Rosati here) or the provision of content on dedicated terminals in libraries (see TU Darmstadt v Eugen Ulmer KG). If you are interested in reading more and keeping up to date with copyright and intellectual property issues, the IP Kat blog is a good source of information and commentary.

However what is clear is that not only does Brexit mean Brexit (and of course we all know exactly what that means) it also means we are unlikely to get a new copyright act in the UK any time soon. This is despite the view of Sir Richard Arnold, British High Court of Justice judge, that we are much in need of one. On Monday he gave us eight reasons why the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended and revised) was long overdue a major overhaul, technology being his first reason and Brexit being the last. This last reason was a recent addition – for the original list of seven reasons see his Herchel Smith IP lecture from 2014. However he concluded by saying that copyright is unlikely to be a priority for parliament over the next few years.

So in these dark, rather depressing January days is there any light on the horizon? The IPO suggested Brexit might be an opportunity to rethink copyright and make it fit for the UK. The lobbying work of organisations such as EIFL and Communia are hoping to convince Brussels that reforming copyright to support education and research is vital. We would like to think that those within the research and education world might be able to play a significant role in shaping the future of copyright in the UK. But it remains to be seen….

Top 10 failings of UK HE Copyright Policies

Elizabeth GaddToday’s post comes from Elizabeth Gadd, Research Policy Manager (Publications), who works in the Research Office of Loughborough University. She has been working in the field of copyright in higher education for over 20 years and reports on some recent research she’s been carrying out into UK university copyright policies.

Last year I read over 80 UK university copyright policies.  I know – I’m an insomniac. The reason I read them was to try and understand how universities were approaching the copyright ownership of teaching and research outputs.  The findings were fascinating and the resulting papers are in progress with the Aslib Journal of Information Management and Education and Information Technologies.  But what was equally fascinating was the considerable variety of approaches taken by universities to the content, availability and management of their copyright policies.  And when I say variety, I’m really saying that most were sub-optimal.  So much so, that I couldn’t resist compiling a list of the top ten failings of UK University Copyright Policies in the hope that this might be of some interest, or at least amusement, to the UK Copyright Literacy community.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. Many are poorly written. I’m not the first to notice this, but really, there is no excuse for not running your policy through a spell check or getting someone to proof read it. But beyond this superficial stuff there were often internal inconsistencies caused by poorly thought through updates, tortuous wording, or vague undefined terms.
  2. Some are just plain wrong.  Legally, I mean. They refer to outdated legislation.  They claim rights under the law that the law doesn’t give them. And many of them state that they “waive’ copyright in scholarly works, which is probably not a thing.
  3. Some are too short. The shortest policies were a paragraph long – so short in fact they could be no use at all to an academic trying to understand their legal position, nor to the university in attempting to defend theirs.
  4. Some are too long. At the other extreme, some were excessively long – 66 pages in one case.  Is anyone going to read that?  (Apart from me).
  5. Some are very old. Fourteen years old in fact.  And not just one, but four policies were this old.  Think of all the legislative, technological and cultural changes that have happened in the last decade! It is hard to believe that these documents really represented their universities’ current policy positions.
  6. They are often incomplete. This is perhaps related to the last point.  If they haven’t been updated for over a decade, they won’t be dealing with current issues. Ten per cent did not address the copyright ownership of teaching materials at all. And 80% didn’t address the copyright ownership of performances – a hugely important component of lecture capture.
  7. They can be ambiguous. Consider the following:

“The University encourages its staff to assert the University’s rights over material submitted for publication. Where a publisher will not grant copyright to the University, staff are encouraged to negotiate to retain the right, or be granted a licence by the publisher for themselves and the University to use the academic publication for teaching, research and open access purposes free of charge.”

If the university believes it owns the rights in scholarly works, why would a publisher need to ‘grant copyright to the university’? And if the publisher did grant a licence, wouldn’t this be with the university as the ultimate rightsholder, and not with the member of staff who is clearly just acting as the university’s agent?

  1. They don’t reflect the reality on the ground.  Obviously, I don’t have the evidence for this from reading the copyright policies, I can only assume from some of the unenforceable clauses (see #7) that they can’t reflect the reality on the ground.
  2. They rely on individuals to represent them to publishers. I’m thinking particularly of universities re-use rights claims here.  Of the 22 policies asserting re-use rights over scholarly works (again, see #7), ten put the onus on the academic author to either communicate this to, or negotiate this with, the publisher. This is unenforceable.  Which leads me to…
  3. They are neither understood nor policed.  Again, I am speculating here.  But if the hundreds of academics working under such policies really understood what was being asked of them, or if the terms were enforced by universities, I think we would have heard the outcry.

So the question is – what can be done?  The UK Copyright Literacy community are doing some great work to try and raise understanding and awareness levels around copyright in UK HE.  However, it is challenge enough reaching the academic community with these, often unwelcome, messages, let alone reaching University policy-makers.  And the situation is compounded by the problems not really being perceived as problems by senior management, and by copyright expertise often resting within relatively junior staff.  No easy answers to this one, but suggestions always welcome!

Many bothans died to bring us this information*

We present another guest post, this time re-blogged with permission from Lawrie Phipps of Jisc, which followed an interesting exchange we had with him recently about copyright and Twitter. It highlights why copyright literacy really matters, but also why this is all part of information literacy and respect for the ideas of others and also that librarians and information professionals know about this stuff. Lawrie writes:


*(Spoiler) No Bothans were harmed in writing this post – but if Rogue One taught us anything its that archives and libraries are dangerous places.

Lots of colleagues and friends are writing blogs at this time of year, reviews and “top 10 tech to watch in 2017” type things. I really enjoyed reading Martin Weller’s review and Sheila MacNeill’s  “idea for a marvelous,mechanical, post-truth, gaslighting, Trump-checking app/mash-up/service” . I was wondering what I could say, which is usually my alarm call for “say nothing” when I came across a tweet in the timeline from a friend – @yolobirder.

Last year YoloBirder tweeted:

The tweeted image he used was later developed into a fundraising T-shirt for bird charities.

xwing-vs-waxwing-t-shirtOver the new year he tweeted about the fact that the @SciencePorn twitter account had taken his image and retweeted it, they hadn’t credited him as the originator, and they had missed the punchline of the image (which kind of ruins the point of the image anyway).

In education we take plagiarism, and not giving credit seriously, sometimes it is because people are lazy, sometimes they forget, sometimes they want to take the credit. I dropped YoloBirder a DM, asked him what he was going to do?

His response was “nothing, what can you do, it happens all the time on Twitter”. He’s right of course, one of the biggest group of victims of this type of theft are comedians having their one-liners stolen. I was probably more incensed about this theft than YoloBirder was. I took to Twitter for advice:

That’s it in a nutshell – whether financial loss or not there is a breach, and tweets do qualify for copyright protection. But YoloBirder was still a bit “whatever”. And I cannot blame him. And that annoyed me more.

There was also some excellent follow-up advice:

But there is a wider issue here. Social Media changed the information landscape, whether that is “fake news”, platforms for extreme views, lies and misinformation, as well as all the good things.

Mark Twain said:

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

He didn’t have access to the internet we now know that the truth is still sleeping whilst the lie is seen by everyone.

2017 needs to be the year that we push back, and information literacies are going to be the key skills for everyone. The headline news around Trump and Brexit, where campaigns were based on lies, deliberate misinformation and misleading the electorates are just the tip of the iceberg. We have to pushback against the attitude that got us here, things like ignoring @sciencePorn steal someone’s work, or the anti-expert movement that politicians seem to like.

I was chatting to one of the locals in the pub, the Doctor, he told me, said he had to lose weight. “But what do they know?” He said. To my shame I said nothing. I should have said. “They trained for years in range of medical disciplines, they base their advice on the current best thinking and research available to them, they see hundreds of patients and they see a lot of them ill and they see the causes of illness. SO when they say you need to lose weight, it’s not based on aesthetics or a whim – they know what is good for your health.”

Using social media responsibly is not just about you and what you say, in 2017 it needs to be about the community you participate in, when you see a lie, or misinformation and you let slide by you are part of what got us where we are. And if you need to learn more about being able to differentiate the real facts from the fake, talk to a librarian – they are experts. In fact follow people like @walkyouhome on Twitter and read her stuff!

2017 needs to be about information literacy, credible sources – the year that we realise how much we need our librarians and public libraries. Perhaps we need radical librarians.

Happy Public Domain Day!

On New Years Day we are delighted to include a guest post from Posy O’Neill who is the Copyright Advisor, Library Collection and Digital Services at Northumbria University.

Posy O'NeillThe first of January each year, which for most of us means New Year’s Day, can also be regarded as Public Domain Day. This is the day in the UK that marks the end of copyright protection for the creative works of poets, writers, artists, composers, photographers etc who died seventy years ago. In UK law (governed by The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, and amendments) copyright duration lasts for seventy years after the end of the year in which the creator died, in most instances. In other countries the copyright term may be longer or shorter than seventy years and the duration also vaBeatrix Potter enters the public domainries with different types of work. However, once the copyright has expired, a work is said to enter the public domain and usually becomes free to re-use, copy, share and alter, only requiring acknowledgement. A recent example is the well-loved work of Beatrix Potter which came into the public domain in 2014 and which inspired Fenwicks’ beautiful tableaux in their Newcastle Christmas window display.

The Public Domain Review publishes their most notable ‘graduates’ each January and the classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 include the writers and poets; Ian Fleming, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Edith Sitwell, H.G. Wells, Paul Valéry and Gertrude Stein and the artists; Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian and Paul Nash.

This online journal provides a source of public domain materials and its ‘graduates’ photos serve as a reminder of their mortality as well as the enduring life of their creations (

A rare exception to the seventy year’s copyright duration is Peter Pan, since J.M. Barrie made a gift in perpetuity of the rights to Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1929. It was the first hospital in the UK dedicated exclusively to the treatment of children and the Peter Pan royalties provides a significant source of income.

So Happy New Year everyone from your friends at UK Copyright Literacy! We hope 2017 brings you health and happiness and you start enjoying many more works that have entered the public domain!

Have yourselves a Merry Christmas!

uk-copyright-lit-santaThis is going to be the last post for 2016 as we wind up for the year. I hope this year has been kind to you. It’s certainly been a year of highs and lows politically. Who knows what impact Brexit might have on the UK’s copyright and IP framework? It still seems a strange irony to have attended the CREATe festival on the day the referendum results came out, and we’ll never forget the emotional reaction of the great and the good from the copyright world. No-one was suggesting that the European copyright regime was perfect or that there weren’t real tensions between various groups. However the result created major uncertainty not just for project of harmonisation itself, but also the friends and colleagues from throughout Europe and the rest of the world who have contributed so much to an environment where information and knowledge can be created and disseminated on a sustainable basis.

However, despite these challenges, in the world of copyright education you have to keep ploughing on. Our study of librarians’ experiences of copyright continues to be illuminating and reassuring, as are the reactions from colleagues who understand the importance of copyright to the information and education worlds and continue to find new ways to spread the word. But the day to day reality in higher education is still one where copyright is an after thought and many copyright officers feel that they are being asked to take responsibility for the actions of others. Let’s hope if we continue to make enough noise about it, that might start to change. And we have been making plenty of noise on a whirlwind tour of conferences and events from Glasgow, Dublin, London and Coventry to Prague. Lecture recording and copyright even saw us feature in the Times Higher a few weeks back

So we end the year on an optimistic note and a happy one after the lovely review of Copyright and E-learning by Andy Horton featured yesterday on the ALT blog. We also celebrated with a copyright games party yesterday at University of Kent. Have a lovely break and may copyright literacy continue to flourish and grow in 2017!