I usually begin each new art project or lesson with my ES kids by first talking about what we are going to do. Then I show them some samples by different artists or examples produced by former students, if it is a project I have done before. Lastly, I demonstrate what is to be done that day or with the whole project. Inevitably, I get a number of students in the class copying my idea or work. It always drives me crazy. The only way around this seems to be for me to explicitly say that they are not allowed to do what I just showed. Even with me saying this or showing them why they shouldn’t, it is often not enough to stop everyone from doing it. In the end, I still get some children doing this; am I then saying to my students that it is alright to copy? Is this the beginning of them copying things from a young age?
We as a society seem to like to copy things. We copy ideas, music, texts, quotes, designs, clothes, money, everything. The older we get the better we get at it. We want to copy things that we can’t necessarily have when we want it. That becomes a problem as then we are infringing on the copyright of others.
So why do we break copyright on different things? I guess there are so many reasons for this such as:
· We can’t come up with a great way of saying something in a paper we are writing so we copy from the book.
· We copy clothes or fashion accessories so we dress “better” than we can afford to.
· We copy or buy illegal movies so we don’t have to pay full price at the theater or for the DVD.
· We copy images to enhance something we are working on.
· We copy because we don’t know what the laws are.
· We copy stuff so we can make money off the work and effort of others.
· My personal favorite is using copied software because the original software won’t work.
So what do we as teachers do about it? Obviously we will try and teach the concept and implications of copyright to our students. However, is that as easy as it should be? As we teach in different international schools here in Japan, there are many confusing implications to this. First of all, do we teach the copyright laws as they pertain to Japan? Should we teach the copyright laws of the USA as we are US curriculum based? Do we teach the laws of the individual countries that students are from and that are more applicable to them in the long run? Do we give a general overview of copyright that is not completely applicable to any one country? And the questions could go on and on.
In the end, copyright and the issues associated with it are not always very clear and concise. Coming up with the correct answer that will suit everybody will be very difficult and time consuming. Each country has its own “right” answers that are probably not the same as another country’s. If we can’t agree to the rules governing copyright on a global scale, does this confusion not lead to more people looking for holes in the system so they can copy?
So what do I do when a 7 year old copies my example or the work of the child beside them? I keep on trying to instill the differences between right and wrong.
Picture of copy machine by Brett Neilson found on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/brettneilson/3522763796/