I’m currently working in an instructional design role reliant on content experts to provide relevant and accurate materials.
I recently received an extensive document outlining content to be used a series of professional learning materials. It was a fantastic document with loads of useful information, images and ideas that would form the basis of some interactive e-learning materials. As I read the document I experienced a few moments of deja-vu as elements of content triggered my memory. A quick search led me to discover that the document had actually been copied from a website that I had visited earlier that day. Further investigation revealed that the entire document was the work of someone else. No references, no acknowledgement that the material was a direct copy from a site.
I raised my concerns with the content writer (a highly experienced teacher) whose response was that, “I found it online.”
There seems to be a belief in large portions of society (adults & children) that anything on the Internet is free and can be reproduced at will. I am a strong advocate for sharing online but we also need to respect the intellectual property of people and correctly acknowledge materials that we have accessed online. Unfortunately we are seeing some rather unscrupulous, or simply uninformed people, who are taking credit for the work of others, using images without citing the source, and in some cases selling resources that have been made by others.
I’m not the only person to have raised this issue recently. This post on the Langwitches blog highlights the issue of taking ideas without acknowledging the source or the copyright requirements. In the case of this blog, it clearly states that content is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. For those who don’t know about Creative Commons licenses, you really should visit the CC site.
The author of Langwitches, (@langwitches) has gone further in a subsequent post, providing a clear guide to creating content and using Creative Commons. Take some time to read and explore, ‘So You Want (Have) To Create Something‘. This post has some great links to sites where you can find images, audio etc that are CC licensed.
People work hard to develop ideas and content which they happily share online through blogs, Twitter and other online communities. Sharing is an essential part of the education profession. Forget the legal side of this, focus on respect for intellectual property and peoples’ contributions. Acknowledge your sources, don’t steal content and take the time to learning about Creative Commons. Just because something is online, does not make it free.