Post by Bartolomeo Meletti, Lead Producer of CopyrightUser.org [a co-production between CREATe, University of Glasgow and Bournemouth University]
On Friday 10 October 2014, Mike Weatherley MP stood down from his role as Intellectual Property Adviser to the Prime Minister. On the same day he published the third and final report produced in his capacity as IP adviser: Copyright Education and Awareness. Following two copyright papers called Search engines and Piracy and ‘Follow the Money’, Mike Weatherley’s latest contribution considers copyright education and awareness activities in the UK. It also offers a number of recommendations with the goal of achieving “[g]reater coherence and coordination between industry, Government, academia and all other relevant stakeholders to deliver an effective positive message about the importance of IP to all our benefits”. Several recommendations explicitly address CREATe and in particular the project CopyrightUser.org.
Recommendation #2: Measurement
The report recommends that existing measurement mechanisms to assess the impact of copyright education and awareness programmes should be improved and fully utilised. In this regard, Mike Weatherley suggests that “CREATe should have a responsibility to work with industry education groups to focus academic attention in this area during 2015 and beyond, especially given its forthcoming research programme is under consideration. Government, Ofcom, industry and academia should work together to agree and deliver a comprehensive research programme to accurately and regularly assess current IP perceptions and behaviours, both quantitatively and qualitatively. The IPO should lead this and set out a future work programme by spring / summer 2015.”
Recommendation #3: Schools / Further Education
It is suggested that copyright and more generally IP should be included within the National Curriculum in schools in order “to prepare pupils […] for the 21st century knowledge economy”. According to Mike Weatherley, IP education needs to start in the classroom at a young age and continue through to the end of secondary school and higher education. In particular, “Government and industry must have clear roles in supporting education professionals by developing and delivering online resources, toolkits and lesson plans with and for teachers so that IP finds its way into the curriculum via different subject areas”. The section ‘IP in the National Curriculum’ (pp. 21-23) of the report dedicates a box to some of the initiatives that Copyrightuser.org is carrying out in this field. Currently the Copyright User team is working with Oxford, Cambridge and RSA (OCR) and CEMP (Bournemouth University) on introducing copyright law into the AS/A Level Media Studies curriculum in schools in England and Wales. We are about to launch a first set of resources to help A-Level Media Studies teachers and students explore the evolving copyright landscape through user-friendly and lively online materials.
Recommendation #5: Providing good information
This recommendation reads: “The Copyright User portal, designed by CREATe, and the Copyright Hub should work closely given the obvious synergies that exist here. A broader and full assessment of the IP information demand and supply gap is necessary and should be completed in 2015”. The section ‘Making Useful Copyright Information Accessible’ (pp. 24-26) of the report includes an entire paragraph about Copyrightuser.org, highlighting the bottom-up methodology we employ to build the content of the site. Suggesting that Copyrightuser.org and the Copyright Hub could work more closely together, Mike Weatherley is “pleased to learn” that I am being seconded from CREATe to the Digital Catapult Centre (London), where the Copyright Hub is based. Indeed, this will allow continued conversations between us and the Copyright Hub, avoiding the production of overlapping educational resources and offering the general public a set of tools about copyright law which are neutral, consistent and up-to-date.
Mike Weatherley received press attention for his report on copyright education. On Monday 13 October, theguardian.com published an article about Weatherley’s recommendation to educate children about copyright in the classroom. The author Alex Hern concludes his article with a critical observation: “The focus is entirely on reinforcing ‘the importance of respecting IP and paying a fair price for content’; fair dealing, the right to re-use copyrighted material without permission in certain circumstances, is not mentioned.” The article attracted a number of users’ comments (87 at the time of writing this post), many of which are quite sceptical about the need to teach copyright in schools and show a negative perception of copyright law.
Copyright education is a delicate matter and credibility plays a crucial role. Copyrightuser.org believes that effective copyright education programmes need to be balanced and bottom-up, reflecting issues that arise for copyright users (such as creators, media professionals, entrepreneurs and consumers) in practice. The focus should be on the importance of creativity and culture in society.