Using other people's stuff (OPS)

Goal: To have students create their own fair use system from scratch as a method of having them explore the ideas implicit in the issue of using "other people's stuff" (OPS) found on the web.

Overview. We want students and citizens in general to understand that there are always issues associated with using materials found anywhere, whether on the street or on the web. However, while the legalities associated with using other people's materials found in RL (Real Life) can be fairly straightforward, that is not always the case when using web-based materials.

The problem with dealing with using "other people's stuff" found on the web is that it doesn't feel like stealing in any visceral sense. If I take your book, then I have your book and you don't. Everyone can see this is the case. The community supports the notion that I have taken your book. However, if I download a book you have written, you still have your book. And you can give it others. Viscerally, there is no association with theft. Instead we have to enter the abstract world of intellectual property permissions. Keep in mind that abstract thought is usually not well developed in students until somewhere between 16 and 25 years of age.

In the area of commercial, intellectual property law is rarely black a
nd white. It is the fact that it embraces a good deal of gray area that keeps copyright lawyers working overtime. There is plenty to argue about. When those involved have something to lose (money), they will litigate to maintain whatever rights they feel they have to their material.

However, this changes in the educational, non-commercial world.   While things can be somewhat clearer in cases where you want to use OPS to make money, it is not at all clear when you want to use it for educational and research purposes. There is plenty to disagree about. Want to use an image you found on the web in a web-based school report? It's not clear what the legalities are here.

Add to this the fact that every country has different laws, and that most web interactions are global in nature, and this area becomes confusing, fast.

Our response, typically, is try to have student memorize what we think laws say, even though there is a great deal debate about what laws say. So, this adventure does not take this approach. Instead, this adventure has students create their own fair use system from scratch. They do so from two points of view: users and creators. And they embed this within the context of creating a digital community that does right by its citizens.

Resources: Digital CitizenshipEd, specifically, Digital Citizenship and Creative Content