Copyright in Coronavirus Crisis

First thing you need to know: I AM NOT A COPYRIGHT EXPERT.

I’m not.

I took classes on it in grad school and have (not) enjoyed seminars on it for professional development since then. It gives me a headache; I feel like parts are always changing.

But. I think it is really, really important.

We need writers and illustrators and musicians and artists and creators. Yes, we do. And we need to protect their work.

So. As you teachers prepare your on-line lessons for your students, yep, you really need to pay attention to copyright.

Loads of authors and publishers have granted special permissions for you to use their work in this time of crisis, which is beyond wonderful. Take them up of their offers, absolutely.

But, please pay attention to what their offer really is.

Specifically, you may need to alert the parents of your young students that they are not to save off a recording of you reading out loud from a book so that in a couple of years they can re-play it for their third child to keep them entertained. Nope. Not okay. This is not even covered under “fair use.” Parents might not think it is a very big deal, but it violates the law, for one, and it also can potentially get you and/or your school in trouble.

As of this writing, the best source of information I can find on the subject is this article, “Publishers Adapt Policies To Help Educators” in School Library Journal. It contains specifics as to how some big children’s book publishers wish to be acknowledged and how to use their materials.

If it were me? With every reading in addition to the publisher’s requests, I would also state the date and the intention of the reading.

Example: “Today is March 18, 2020, and this reading of The Imaginary Book by Ms. Imagination is intended for my 2nd grade class at Imaginary Elementary.”

Deep breath. I know this is a lot, but you want to protect yourself, your school and honor the work of people who were creative and amazing enough to write, illustrate, and publish the book in the first place.

If you’d like to read a book and you cannot seem to find the OK from the publisher to use it? Pick another book. Really.

AND ALSO . . .

May I remind you that there are stories you can tell that defy copyright? A retelling of an old legend, fable, or fairytale, for example. And? When you do this well? It can be even better than trying to get you and the book you’re holding up just right in the camera.

Think about it. If you follow any vloggers or social media influencers, many of the ones you like and who are successful appear as if they’re talking right to you. (Come to think of it, a lot like Mr. Rogers.)

I’m not suggesting that you never read a book to your students.

I am suggesting that if you want real connection to them in this virtual reality we now find ourselves in, you might occasionally tell a story directly to them.

Many moons ago, when my son was about 4 and my daughter about 2, they were playing in their playroom while I was working on dinner. My son came running into the kitchen and very excitedly shouted, “Mom! Mom! Mom!” (Always three times.) “There is a ladybug in the playroom!!!”

I had seen ladybugs before. I was uninterested and unalarmed (it wasn’t a cockroach, after all). I returned to making dinner.

My son stayed with me in the kitchen, forgetting about the ladybug.

A few minutes later, my daughter toddled into the kitchen. Dinner was about ready, so I popped her up onto a kitchen stool for her to eat.

And it was then that I understood. There was a ladybug in the playroom. Just of a different variety:

Mind you, this is before we all have cameras on our phones, so I actually took the trouble to take a picture and get it developed of this craziness.

Afterwards, my son and I had a long chat about how I wasn’t a huge fan of his drawing on his sister (even if, as he claimed, she liked it).

The serious talk we had was not effective.

A few days later, my daughter was covered in jewels:

Why did I just tell you this?

Because it is a story that has no copyright and yet still plenty entertaining. And maybe, even, you feel more connected to me. Perhaps you, too, have raised children who draw on themselves (or siblings); perhaps you also have a playroom that is as messy as this one or a child whose hair is unbrushed or – heck – a child who prefers to hang out in only a diaper, as both of mine did (especially in August in Houston, when these events occurred). I mean, really, this is a big reason why we even bother telling stories – to relate to each other, to connect.

We ALL have stories like this one. My mom loves to share how, when I was about 3 years old, the house got incredibly quiet. She peered into the kitchen to find a stool up against the countertop and me, popping into my mouth the last bit of an entire stick of butter.

I still love butter but no longer consume it by the stick.

What stories can you tell your students?

And, in turn, what stories can they either draw, write, to tell back to you?

If you can’t think of a drawing-on-your-sister story or an eating-a-stick-of-butter story, here are some ideas . . .

A story about:

~ How you got your name.

~ How your parents (or grandparents) met.

~ A regrettable haircut.

~ A true random act of kindness that happened to you.

~ An amazing trip.

~ A time you told an important truth.

~ A time you told a terrible lie.

~ A favorite pet and how you acquired it or a pet you wish you had.

~ A time you laughed so hard it hurt.

~ A time you were scared.

When we share our stories, we become relatable; we find our commonalities as humans. This could be the source of comfort your students crave right now!

Keep Reading – and sharing stories (legally),

Contact me at fplweb (at) frontporchlibrarian dot com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *