After reading the article Copyright law affects course readings it really made me consider the way that we use material in courses and the considerations that teachers need to employ when they present copyrighted material to their class. In general I have always felt that material presented in the classroom for learning purposes should be free. As a student I have felt resentful of the textbook industry that continually produces new editions of texts with unnoticeably minor changes just so that they can continue to force students to buy new books instead of reusing the textbooks that are available used. I always appreciated when teachers would provide readings or excerpts from texts so that the financial burden was not passed to the students to pay for another book. It is also important to recognize the massive amount of waste that is produced in the printing of new textbooks as well as the waste of old editions that end up the trash or the energy required to recycle them.
On the other side of the issue, however, I understand that there is a very significant amount of work that goes into creating learning materials and that the authors, and to some extent the publishers, deserve to be compensated for their work. As educators we must deal with the delicate balance between easing the financial burden that the education system, especially in the United States, places on students and not ignoring the issues of copyrights and the compensation that the owners of those rights deserve. One of the things that the article alludes to is the complication that the age of the internet brings to this issue. The lines that distinguish copyrighted material have become blurred. The ability to search for material online and the lack of clear attribution of that material can make it difficult to decide what material is “fair-use” and what needs to have permission for use in the classroom. Furthermore, the ability to access and download material illegally has also changed the system. In this case, I don’t necessarily think that it should be the teachers job to regulate how their students acquire material when they are outside of the classroom, but I do think that it is something they need to be aware of.
I think that another important point to bring up with regards to copyright issues and courseware is the open courseware movement. Many educators are creating material that is free to use and share. I believe that the more that teachers become aware of these materials and contribute their own time to creating and sharing material we can change the financial burden that students face. Using open courseware and leveraging the power of the internet, we can create free material for students and teachers around the world to use without having to worry about understanding or violating the numerous copyright laws around the world.