Copyright for New Zealand Teachers
So this week I was introduced to a concept that I was completely unaware of as a teacher.
And by concept, I mean law.
As a creative, I have different fingers in different creative exploits including art, photography, web design, and music. Needless to say I thought I was rather familiar with the rules around copyright. Especially in it’s purpose to protect the creator of the work in question. I’m very familiar with the understanding that anything created for a company or corporate, being paid for by the company or corporate, then the company or corporate hold the copyright for that work, unless otherwise agreed upon. However as a teacher, I feel it’s slightly different, especially since so much “personal” time is invested in creating resources, planning lessons, or creating avenues of learning.
However, I was completely unaware that under the 1994 New Zealand Copyright Act, schools fall into the same sort of category as a company or corporate; meaning that the copyright to works that teachers create is owned by the Board of Trustees. This means that, when teachers share, collaborate, and take resources they’ve made from one job to another without the Board’s express permission, they’re breaking the law.
This is slightly concerning. I know of many teachers who have moved around to different teaching positions. It happens all the time. I know of at least 7 teachers who have moved in and/or out of at my current school during my 6 years there. It is also concerning given the nature of teaching, and teacher willingness to share, collaborate, and work together to have a greater impact on the world around them, by influencing and helping other colleagues, whether they be at the same school, the school down the road, or the school at the other end of the country.
In different conversations around this, I received an email from Carolyn Stewart, who has been a principal for many years, and is now involved with Network 4 Learning. In it she explains the law very clearly and concisely in a way that if most laws were written like, the majority of us would have some chance of actually understanding them!
“The copyright for any teaching and learning resources, that is clearly linked to the daily employment of the resource creator, whether in school time or not belongs to the Board of Trustees who are their employer… A teacher should only share resources outside their school boundary with the permission of their Board of Trustees – this includes taking resources when they move from school to school. Practically this is quite difficult to manage as we all know that deep within NZ teachers’ DNA is the propensity to share with others to improve learning for all NZ children.”
Many schools and teachers do not realise this. I was one of them.
TKI outlines it very clearly for teachers – but obviously we are incredibly busy and don’t like to use our time trawling through every webpage on TKI. In the page about Teachers and contractors copyright, it says
As I did a little more investigating, it raised more and more questions.
- How does this work for the Registered Teacher Criteria, that requires teachers to gather evidence of meeting the requirements of an effective teacher? Am I able to take this portfolio of my work with me and use it in another teacher role?
- How does this work with templates or reports we have developed and shared with other schools, and vice versa?
What others are saying
So, the usual process when something like this comes up, is I hit Google and do a bit of a search to see what others are saying about this issue I previously knew nothing about.
Most interestingly, only a year ago, this article slipped through the news. In it, Matt McGreggor of Creative Commons in New Zealand says
“There’s a real absurdity in most schools at the moment where teachers don’t hold the copyright to their resources,” he said. “What that means is that teachers who share all the time are breaching the copyright of their board of trustees.
“Every school in New Zealand should fix that problem by passing a Creative Commons policy.”
So even those who work in the copyright industry say that the rule is stupid, but there is a very simple solution, similar – if not better – to the one I suggested earlier.
Covering all the aspects of this is a webpage created by Creative Commons that outlines all that I discovered in the course of this article. It outlines the issues, as well as advocates on behalf of teachers for all boards to make a policy change so that Teachers are able to legally share their resources or take them with them as they move to another school. They have even created a template, making it easy for boards to implement a new policy.
With it, they have made a couple of videos as well.
I know for me, I will have to add another item to the next Board of Trustees meeting agenda.