Role Models In Copyright
by Keith Lightbody - first published Febuary 2000

When dealing with best copyright practice, students in Australia generally lack positive role models. Their peers may consistently demonstrate poor practice with computer games by 'sharing widely' or making extra copies of software they have purchased. At home or at school some of their peers may also be regularly using other peoples' work without due acknowledgment. Children continually evolve values based on their own thinking and the influence of parents, teachers, the media and their peers. This article offers parents and teachers ideas to encourage more of our young people to develop good copyright practice. It is based on contributions from my colleagues, trials with students and my own personal experience.

When I was a child I often told lies. It seemed the smart thing to do since when problems occurred you were usually punished for telling the truth! As a parent and as a teacher I have striven to never punish children for being honest about a problem. Additionally I vowed many years ago to always tell the truth. Why? There were many reasons but one reason was that children respect positive role models. Another was that children can see through those who do not 'practice what they preach'. With both lies and copyright, total compliance can be onerous or difficult. However everyone who makes at least some effort should be supported. Some schools or parents are tempted by the 'strapped for cash' excuse to break copyright 'for the good of the kid'- such hypocrisy must be avoided! Positive role models are essential and parents or teachers can help young people resist negative influences.

You can be a better copyright role model if you 'know-the-rules'. The Internet is very useful for finding current information on copyright. In Australia some useful sites include (Australian Copyright Council) and (Intellectual Property Branch of the Australian Federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts). Both sites include links to other copyright sites or you can search on the Internet to uncover other Australian and international sites. The Copyright Council also has excellent information sheets for more detail on a particular area of interest (e.g. Music & Copyright, Computer Software & Copyright, Videos and Film: Screening in Class).

Young people today have more opportunity than ever before to plagiarise or reproduce digital copies (via the Internet, CD burners, dual cassette stereos, etc). Parents and teachers need to check for pirate CDs and digital plagiarism. Students who write using their own words are to be encouraged. However students who only 'cut and paste' material need to be identified. They can then be helped to develop better research skills and to cultivate their creativity. The slogan "Respect Copyright - Encourage Creativity" is helpful. It is included on a poster published by the Copyright Agency Limited. They also have helpful information on their website at

Some ways of encouraging creativity. Make positive, constructive, non-judgemental comments with regard to original work. Ensure the author's name is on all images or other pieces of work. Show the work produced is valued by using it (e.g. in a school publication or on a wall at home). Allow for individuals with different methods and learning styles. Include opportunities for collaboration and sharing. Choose tasks of interest or relevance to students. Nurture a cheerful atmosphere. Provide strategies to help minimise or cope with peer group pressure. Offer incentives (e.g. special privileges, increased independence, small prizes). Assist with skills development to improve self-confidence and improve the quality of the work. Introduce techniques for creative thinking (e.g. brainstorming, mind maps, storyboarding, visual thinking). An Australian website with global links to a variety of techniques for creative thinking is Alternatively search the Internet looking for 'creative thanking' or 'brainstorming'. A copy of my current list of suggestions for encouraging creativity in the classroom is available at

During 1999 I assisted in the judging of some Australian student website competitions. The competitions offered students accelerated skill development, scope for improved time management and opportunities for collaboration. They allowed the achievement of outcomes from many different learning areas. Often the most interesting sites contained original material. However some sites included large amounts of 'borrowed' or 'reused' resources (shareware graphics, clip art, etc). I believe that web competitions should require entrants to declare that at least 80% of their site is original content (I know it may be difficult to verify but the intent is important). They should also list and acknowledge all parts that are derived or not original. The Edulink 2000 ó Schools Millennium Website Project was one website competition during 2000 that had prizes for creativity. This national project was open to all Australian schools - visit for details.

There are additional ways of being an effective copyright role model. Make sure you regularly acknowledge the efforts of others. Explain copyright to others. Promote the idea that it is 'cool to be legal'. Show children examples of copyright agreements (eg. software). Provide evidence of good legal practice (e.g. proof-of-purchase, bulk software license agreements). Be passionate about 'doing the right thing'. Discuss the issues of pirate CDs, sharing around software, copyright court cases or local incidents. Explain the legal consequences. Allow and encourage feedback yourself while helping young people develop similar skills. Include details about copyright in your own work. At the same time state clearly any limitations in the use of your own material.

I believe you are less likely to be prosecuted for breach of copyright if you follow four guiding principles. Be creative, acknowledge other people's contributions, encourage feedback by others and make every effort to comply with copyright laws. A 'nil effort' with copyright is not acceptable. Everyone needs to make some effort in understanding and complying with copyright requirements. Please do your bit to help the young people of today develop a sound ethical approach to copyright.

This article was written by Keith Lightbody in January 2000 for publication in  It may be duplicated for non-profit use in educational institutions, education newsletters or homes. However all acknowledgements must remain. The content should not be included on a website or in email but can be hyperlinked to the current version at Feedback is welcome - please email me.

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