Read the license!

Read the license!

Photo credit: flickr user Eden, Janine and Jim Creative Commons License

From the editor: COERLL advocates for the use of Creative Commons (CC) licenses over copyright wherever possible. But in either case, it is essential that users always look for the CC or the © on the work they use and distribute, and understand what those symbols mean about their rights. Martina Bex gives a teacher’s personal perspective why usage and distribution rights are important. 

A few weeks ago, I used Google to find the link to one of my products. I typed in “bex monstruo armario”, and there it was! Yes! The first link that popped up was a direct link to the product on TeachersPayTeachers.com. That should have been the end of the story, but unfortunately it was only just beginning.

My heart sank as I realized that the next two…four…seven links were all direct-download links to my powerpoint presentation that were stored on slide sharing websites and personal classroom pages. “Are you kidding me!?” I exclaimed out loud. I felt my stomach begin to tie itself in knots. As I clicked through link after link, I my heart start to pound harder and harder in my chest. I clenched my teeth and my ears started getting hot. WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?

Copyright infringement is something that publishers deal with constantly. For many, it has become such a frequent occurrence that they have hired personnel to identify and pursue violations. I am not a publisher; I’m a stay at home mom with a 5 year old, a 3.5 year old, a 2.5 year old, a 1 year old, and another baby on the way that oh-by-the-way-happens-to-write-lesson-plans. I don’t have the money to hire someone to make sure that no one is posting my materials online; nor do I have the time to regularly search for each of the hundreds of products that I sell to make sure that they haven’t been posted anywhere. I don’t have time to track down the contact information of violators; draft emails, letters, and submit takedown requests; and follow up to make sure that the files are removed. I especially don’t have the time or money to hire a lawyer that will pursue financial reparation. And yet, I don’t have a choice. When you’re wounded, you’ve got to stop the bleeding.

I realize that most of the time, teachers violate digital copyright law innocently. In an effort to connect classroom and home or to find easy solutions for the “I-teach-in-six-different-classrooms” problem, teachers upload PDFs of the materials that they use in class to their classroom websites or to slide sharing websites. It never occurs to them that the little link posted on their page would pop up in the first page of a Google search—even with general terms—for anyone in the world to be able to access and download.

I’m here today to tell you that the files on your public, non-password protected website do show up in a simple Google search, and that your careless mistake is hurting me. I’ll never know how much income I have lost due to copyright violations. Perhaps because I can’t possibly know the amount, loss of income doesn’t bother me much. What really infuriates me is watching my to-do list become completely derailed, week after week, as infringements are brought to my attention. Three hours spent dealing with copyright concerns means that I don’t have time to respond to the 10 emails that I received yesterday from teachers asking for advice. It means that even though I promised a group of teachers that a unit would be finished by the time they needed it this Friday, it won’t be. It means that the article that I wanted to write and share—FREE—for teachers to use to talk about the situation in Venezuela will never get written.

Somehow, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize!” doesn’t seem like enough.

Please, dear teachers, take the time to learn about how files can be used and shared, whether copyrighted or carrying a Creative Commons license. Take the time to educate your colleagues. And if you ever stumble upon a file that is being shared illegally online, please send the link to the copyright holder.

Martina Bex is a former Spanish teacher in Anchorage, Alaska with a passion for using comprehensible input to explore culture in the target language beginning in Novice classes.

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