Copyright, Intellectual Freedom and Intellectual Property: The View from Here

February 22, 2009

As Rebecca Butler states in “Borrowing Media from Around the World: School Libraries and Copyright Law “Copyright law in the school library environment is a gray, cloudy entity with many interpretations.”  What I’ve attempted to do is clear up some of the gray, cloudy areas for myself, staff and students in my little corner of the world.  Here’s a description of my new, clearer view on this topic from the beautiful school library in our 110 year heritage designated school building.


As Doug Johnson explains in Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad © As information professionals, we have a responsibility to make sure our staff and students have access to all of the copyrighted materials they’re entitled to—and we also need to help them develop a healthy respect for copyright laws.”

My husband recently reminded me of  this Aboriginal perspective of knowledge/intellectual property  and how Aboriginal Elders always preface everything they share with acknowledging those that came before them. An Aboriginal perspective acknowledges that all knowledge is a culmination of a collective process, so how can anyone claim ownership over that which belongs to everyone? Yet, there are some cultural traditions associated with this oral culture  that must be respected when sharing traditional songs and teachings.

When viewing this issue from a social constructivist perspective it’s easy to see that everything we learn hinges upon what we already know. This in itself is a humbling recognition, and serves to inspire those adhering to a constructivism to consciously recognize and acknowledge that all knowledge is a cumulative, highly social entity. All great minds stand on the shoulders of other great minds. Our current ways and means of acknowledging sources does not always capture this. For example, I need to thank Joanie and Sheila here for guiding a discussion related to this topic, and for all the insights offered by my online learning buddies, and to Joanne for providing a great reading list.

Perhaps the most exciting trend today is Creative Commons licensing based on the recognition that many content creators believe good ideas and work are for sharing, so  a formal means has been provided by which to do so. It is worth emphasizing that when using Creative Commons licensed materials, one must attribute the creator.

I must thank Anne-Marie Gordon turrean / from my Twitter Network for sharing this  acknowledgement/sources/attribution sample. It’s from this VoiceThread school project.


In Canada, we’re awaiting the passing of Bill C-61 on copyright and can look forward to Dr. John Tooth’s highly anticipated Canadian copyright book “in layman’s terms”.

What can I do as a Teacher-librarian in the meantime? – LOTS!

There is plenty I  can do to help staff and students and  find their own personal comfort levels in times of uncertainty when accessing others’ intellectual property. I must first acknowledge Annette Lamb for her description of 8 roles for a T-L to take action in the article: Intellectual Freedom for Youth which helped me form the following list for my own personal action plan:

  • Consult, and if possible involve, Aboriginal Elders and community when sharing traditional songs, art, teachings and knowledge.
  • Promote Intellectual Freedom with students – use readings  the from ALA’s Kids, Know Your Rights! – Add Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury to the list for Senior high and adult students.
  • Teach the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship as outlined in Mike Ribble’s Passport to Digital Citizenship:
  • Examine Web 2.0 Terms of Service agreements to provide clarification for staff and  students.
  1. For example, examine  Google Docs Terms of Service  to see how ownership is retained by Google Docs, then pass this information on to staff and students.
  2. Examine VoiceThread’s terms of use to learn that all uploaded content remains the property of the owner/creator.
  3. Ask students to examine terms of use and find out how they feel about Facebook’s new terms of use which retain ownership of the content posted there.
  • Encourage blogging as student assignments because academic honesty is “built in”.  Just knowing they’re writing for a  global audience compells students to be  accountable. Others (including classmates) may read their work and challenge ownership/authenticity. Blogging also allows students to link to their electronic sources of information easily and it’s easy for teachers to verify the sources of information.
  • When a teacher asks me to come and do a talk on plagiarism, I  turn it around and talk about academic honesty, and much more practically, demonstrate how to use Word 2007 to cite sources easily in any essay style!
  • Demonstrate, discuss and educate others on the educational uses of least restrictive internet filtering policies.
  • Make a list of royalty free for educational use music and image websites off the library website like this one.
  • If a student insists on using an image or music which isn’t cleared for educational use, simply ask them to e-mail the creator. (Most often they choose to use an image or music that is already cleared for educational use instead.)
  • Make a list of age appropriate/locally relevant sites on copyright for students and staff like this one.
  • Help students and teachers frame their inquiry questions so that it requires original thinking and avoids copy and pasting (e.g. “What is a polar bear’s habitat?” is a question which could easily result in copy and pasting vs. “Can polar bears survive in a Mexican zoos?” which requires a great deal of both research and original thinking.)
  • Encourage students (and teachers) to use original artwork and photographs, and assign creative commons licensing to it. A good way to start teaching this is by uploading original photographs or images to Flickr, then requiring students to assign the licensing that they’re comfortable with.
  • Suggest that teachers include ethical and responsible use of others’ intellectual property as part of their assessment criteria.

This post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging my husband’s contribution  on Aboriginal perspectives and social constructionist perspectives on intellectual property, so I’m sending him this digital valentine. As we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversay on Valentine’s Day we talked about anything and everything, including intellectual freedom and intellectual property. Thank you Vern.


Blog # 1 – Photo Sharing Sites

September 20, 2008

Photo sharing Sites

My thoughts aren’t as scattered this week, and to prove it I’ve provided the following chronology of my journey to choose and explore photo sharing sites:

1.  I did all my background reading first. I read recommended reading, reviews and articles and made a list of recommendations/sites to explore: Flickr, Picasa Web Albums,, Phanfare, Webshots, PhotoBucket, Smugmug & Zoto.

2. I logged on as a student would at a workstation in the library at my school to see which ones are blocked or not functional to narrow down the list. Surprise of all surprises! None of them were blocked. At my adult high school, students have access to a less restricted web server – although most sites utilizing javascript are blocked for student use. I did discount Webshots because their images didn’t display properly on the computers in the library. I’m thinking that for those schools/sites which do block some or all aspects of other photosharing sites, the free Picasa 3 download MAY be the answer.

3. I had originally thought that I would explore Zoto 3.0 in full because I read that it would publish directly to WordPress blogs. Looking carefully at Flickr, I learned that it too can publish directly to WordPress blogs too. So based on its reviews, popularity, services and tools I chose Flickr to explore and use in depth.

4. Based on Will Richardson’s recommendation, I re-sized and reduced the file size of some select photos from a chunky 4.0 MB each to under 2.0 MB each. To do this I used the free, downloadable photo converter/editor “Irfanview” which I already have installed on my home computer.

5. I uploaded 10 photos from  yurting holidays my husband and I have taken over the past years. (see my yurting post for more information on yurting)

6. I tagged and described each and saved them.

7. I added them to the Flickr map in the Nutimik Lake Campground, Manitoba.

8. I created a “set” and called it “Yurting”.

9. I added the photostream to my Delicious account directly through Flickr.

10. I edited one image using the Picnik application accessible through Flickrand saved it as a brighter more beautiful image than the original. (NOTE: when I was logged in at school as a student, the Picnik online photo editor did NOT work . This is good to know so we could direct students that need to edit photos to do it first using our PhotoElements software)

11. I added my Flickr photostream as a RSS feed to my Bloglines aggregator.

12. I added my Lifelonglearnerrhonda WordPress blog to my Flickr account and sent a test. I then sent a photo to my blog with a posting (yurting blog). I then sent the above image to this blog. Click on it above to see my full photostream!

13. I changed the permissions on all my photos to “Attribution- Non Commercial Creative Commons” allowing others to use, change and share my photos as long as they credit the source and do not use it for commercial gain.

14. I checked out the New Printing service only to discover that it is not available in Canada . . . yet. That’s okay, I’m already registered with for printing my digital images.

15. I checked out Flickr Tools @ and notice that The Windows Live Photo Gallery will be useful for me to install before I upload any more images from my digital camera.

16. I checked out Flickr Services at and had a blast with the Flickr Colour Picker @ I e-mailed the URL to our Art Specialist.

17. I checked out the FlickrReplacr Bookmarklet @ as suggested by Will Richardson to highlight words in your web browser and have them replaced with a tagged image from Flickr, but was disappointed to discover that it didn’t work in my newly installed IE beta version 8 web browser. This does give me something to explore again at work on Monday.

18. I checked out Flicktion @ .

Educational Applications: The Journey Continues

My experience with using photo sharing with students up to this point has been extremely limited. I did work with the grade 12 History and World Issues teacher last year to have students from both classes create some beautiful posters using photos from Flickr and other sites. One of the objectives was to have students choose images from Flickr or websites granting permission to use the images for non commercial purposes and to cite the source properly. We found the easy to find even hard-to-find images searching for tags like “early man” or “neanderthal man”. Students were required to examine the copyright permissions carefully to be sure they could add their comments and print them out as posters. The Fair Use rules Richardson describes in chapter 7 do not apply in Canada.

Just yesterday, a group of basic literacy adult students came into the library with their teacher to create visual poems using images and words provided by ( Although PicLits is not a photo sharing site, I gleaned some very useful insights from the way the students approached the site.  This is the first time I’ve instructed students to create an account to save their work, then e-mail their best “PicLit” to their teacher. (Note: I discovered ahead of time that PicLits didn’t work for the student login, so I logged the computers on using my staff login and avoided frustration and delays.) This activity was surprisingly (or perhaps not suprisingly) successful. In the past basic literacy students have balked doing and saving simple writing tasks using Word software. None of the students seemed to have difficulty entering their school division e-mail addresses or following the saving and e-mailing instructions. I think the visual appeal is what made the difference in their motivational levels. Next time we can expand the activity to Flickr and have them write “Tag Poems” or visual stories and tag them so they’ll appear @ .

Up until now I’ve been oblivious to the educational value of the social conversations and collaborative learning afforded by the photo sharing sites. Next time I help with engaging a class in Flickr, I’ll ask that they leave a comment for any photo they find appealing and especially for those they use in their work.

Now that I’ve learned we won’t have problems with our server, I’ve decided to approach one of the English teachers who does a fair big of digital photography with his students to have them post some of their images to Flickr publicly. We’ll follow and teach the privacy precautions as outlined by Terry Freedman in his article ” Photo-sharing and clip-art”. We’ll teach them how to assign tags and descriptions and ask them to examine the Creative Commons licensing carefully to decided which permissions they’ll allow. I don’t think there’s a better way to teach copyright! We can then create a group and have photos archived for existing and incoming classes. I’m sure we’ll see other applications and benefits as we go along.

Additionally, as Steering Commitee Chair of my school division’s Senior Years Technology Mentors Group, I’m going to recommend a PD/sharing sessions for using Flickr with our students. Even if it is blocked in all the other high schools in the division, it’s high time educators re-write policy for the benefit of our students. I have no doubts that other educators will feel the same way once they’ve taken a first hand look at how beneficial Flickr can be.