On the (not so) dull topic of copyright.

He [sic] who receives an idea from me receives instructions without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me. (Thomas Jefferson, cited in Kapitzke, 2009, p. 95)

As part of my Masters in Teacher-Librarianship, it has been exciting to examine the creative possibilities of Web 2.0. In this citation, Jefferson reflects on how the sharing of ideas is an experience which enriches without detracting from the original idea. In the same way, Web 2.0 offers boundless opportunities for ideas to be shared, built upon, extended and improved. I am a little less excited to realise that  the creative opportunities of Web 2.0 also mean I have a very important responsibility to my students to educate them in copyright and the fair use of the materials to which they have access.

I recently read Kapitzke’s article Rethinking Copyright for the Library through Creative Commons Licensing. Kapitzke discusses current copyright policies. He reflects on a government which wishes to build a culture of creative and innovative thinking, but which is simultaneously tightening copyright laws. He argues that increasingly restrictive copyright laws are forcing a culture of self-censorship and are at odds with the development of collective creativity. Kapitzke proposes improving the status of copyright education as one way to deal with the impact of restrictive copyright laws (2009). His article is fascinating, and definitely worth a read for anyone working in education.

Reading the article prompted me to question what kind of copyright education we already have in place in Australian schools and I would like to share my discoveries here. The issue is clearly increasing important, and yet, in my role as a primary-school teacher, I was completely unaware that any such area of study existed within the school context. So perhaps there are other training teacher-librarians out there who, like me, could benefit from the information I have discovered.

HSC: All My Own Work

This module based program is a pre-requisite to completing the NSW High School Certificate. It covers Scholarship Principles and Practices, Acknowledging Sources, Plagiarism, Copyright and Working with others (Board of Studies New South Wales, 2006). I spoke with a teacher working in the NSW system to find out how the program is implement, and she advised me that it was largely dependent on the Teacher-Librarian for affective delivery. Currently, I cannot find indication that the program has been made part of the Australian National Curriculum.

Australian National Curriculum

I searched the Australian National Curriculum for anything about copyright, but the closest I could turn up was a component of the Year 10 English curriculum which requires students to understand who to cite in essays, reviews and academic assignments and when it is appropriate to use direct quotations or to report sources more generally” (Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority, 2014, ACELA1568). While my search within the curriculum was certainly not exhaustive, I could not locate anything similar to the “All My Own Work” module being taught in New South Wales.

In terms of official government curriculum, my discoveries regarding copyright education in Australian schools stop there. So unless you are a NSW teacher-librarian working with HSC students, you are left very much on your own in terms of structuring a suitable course for educating students in this important area.

Two useful resources for TLs

My research turned up a Manifesto for 21st Century Teacher Librarians which provides useful guidelines for those teaching outside of NSW. The manifesto outlines what might be considered the most important topics regarding copyright for a TL to teach to her students and to know about herself. The relevant information is under the section Copyright, copyleft and information ethics. 

This YouTube clip on Fair Use is also a wonderful resource for teacher-librarians and their students to understand how they can remain lawful when creating new content out of existing works.

To conclude, I feel that much more could be provided to help Teacher-Librarians induct students into the world of copyright. Should anyone reading this post know of any other resources or inclusions in the curriculum it would wonderful if you could include them in the comments section here, to assist others like myself.


Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2014). The Australian curriculum: Foundation – 10. Retrieved September 26, 2014 from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/english/Curriculum/F-10?layout=1#cdcode=ACELA1568&level=10

Board of Studies New South Wales. (2006). HSC: All my own work. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from http://amow.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/

Kapitzke, C. (2009). Rethinking copyrights for the library through Creative Commons licensing. Library Trends. 58(1), 95-108. doi: 10.1353/lib.0.0069

Valenza, J., K.,  (2010, October). Manefesto for 21st century teacher-librarians [Web log post]. Teacher-Librarian: Journal for School Library Professionals. Retrieved from http://www.teacherlibrarian.com/2011/05/01/manifesto-for-21st-century-teacher-librarians/ Editor’s Note: This article was originally published as a Tag Team Tech column on www.voyamagazine.com. It has been reprinted and reproduced numerous times and  in many places. We are making it available here to ensure that all of our readers have seen it.



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2 responses to “On the (not so) dull topic of copyright.

  1. evanss2d

    Hi Lizzy,
    What a fantastic resource. You have found some really useful tools which I have bookmarked for future use. While this is not something which is in the curriculum it would be great if some of it can be incorporated into research lessons. The NSW – All my own work would be really good for this in terms of it being bite sized and the fact you could target what you want the students to know. It could also be presented with certain aspects being focused on with a particular year group. For example you could do Acknowledging Sources with the Yr 7s, the Plagerism with Yr 8s, etc. over the course of a year or a term so that in any contact you have with them it is briefly mentioned or modelled. The following year or term you might do the topic with another year group. You have mentioned an article which helped to inspire you – Rethinking Copyright for the Library through Creative Commons Licensing the link you have in your reference does not take me to an accessable copy of the article but I was able to find it elsewhere. For anyone reading this post who would like to read it the article can be found at the following url:
    Thank you once again for an inspiring and thought provoking read along with some great resources.


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