Flowchart created by  Meryl Zeidenberg and the Academic Technology Team at Graded

Flowchart created by Meryl Zeidenberg and the Academic Technology Team at Graded

The problem with copyright rules is that they are confounding. I’ve spent about an hour trying to understand all the “this then thats” of the copyright flowchart pictured below. I still don’t understand if I’m allowed to share it here. It appears as if I can use it because it’s marked, “creative commons with attribution for non-commercial purposes, and share alike approval” but I could still be breaking rules because it’s all gibberish to me.

With so many educational catchphrases snowballing through my mind: citizenship, Common Core, footprints, scaffolding, flipping, integration, workshop, inclusion, differentiation, 6-Traits, PYP, PLCs, UBDs, ILP, TICs and PLN’s do I really have time to educate myself about copyright compliance? For most educators, the answer is a resounding NO!!! And when you have entire professions dedicated to dealing with our infringements, I don’t really want to bother. I have more important things to become an “expert” in. I know I need to know the basics and I may make mistakes and use a copyrighted song during an assembly or use a movie for it’s “teachable moments” in class, but do the people with whom I’m “infringing” upon have time to deal with little old me? Should they even bother? And should I be expected to “teach” copyright when the rules are unclear and ever-changing?

These were the questions that guided my inquiry this week. But before I started, I reflected upon some experiences from the places I’ve taught…

When I lived in Kenya, the video rental guy used to copy movies from LaserDiscs. Though I had never been invited into the guts of his operation, I often rented a video that had an intermission of a blue screen and the words, “Insert LaserDisc Side 2” etched across the screen.

In Kuwait, Ahmed would regularly knock on the door of my apartment with the latest and greatest videos I “must watch.” Most of the TV shows and movies we were “offered” were edited for viewing in Kuwaiti movie theaters so what I saw at home was different than what people saw for 2KD. When we took our kids to see a rather innocuous film, “The Princess and the Frog,” the story just didn’t make sense. It wasn’t until we watched it on the plane ride home during the summer that we realized the princess KISSED! (gasp) the frog. Well, it makes a lot more sense now!

In Indonesia, the malls were littered with small DVD operations that sold illegally copied movies, video games, and audio CDs cheap! (2 for $1 cheap!). Though there would be sweeping closures 1 or 2 times a year, the stores would open up busier and with more on offer post closing.

Here in South Africa, torrenting is rampant and illegal movies are sold on nearly every street corner.

So… as an international educator, how am I expected to address copyright compliance in my classroom, when the countries I work in turn the other cheek?

Maybe I shouldn’t bother.

As a teacher, I’m honored when a colleague is inspired by a lesson, an activity, an anchor chart, or game I’ve created to the point where they steal it! I am grateful that the thought and time that went in to “making” it for my students has the added benefit of working for my colleague and therefore benefiting other students! Do I care if I get credit? No. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t get credit for: making wholesome lunches, washing the clothes, stopping a fight, helping a neighbor, giving up my seat, etc., and the lack of credit doesn’t stop me from doing good things. I make choices to help and improve the quality of someone else’s life in hopes that there will be a ripple effect and they will, in turn, help improve the quality of someone else’s life.

Why can we not apply this same level of courtesy to the world of intellectual property? Why can’t we just share and be proud to have inspired someone else? Be grateful that someone else is so impressed by your genius that they have found a way to use it. I think artists should be pleased that someone wants to use their art. Share it for free! Let me use it (after I slapped your name on it) and let that be that! I think Pharrell Williams said it best in an article from Rolling Stones (the article is in reference to the $7+ million “Blurred Lines” lawsuit that Williams is required to pay Marvin Gaye’s estate).

“The verdict handicaps any creator out there who is making something that might be inspired by something else,” Williams told The Financial Times. “This applies to fashion, music, design… anything. If we lose our freedom to be inspired, we’re going to look up one day and the entertainment industry as we know it will be frozen in litigation. This is about protecting the intellectual rights of people who have ideas.”

Based on the copyright laws I’ve investigated this week, my favorite poetry lesson cannot be taught anymore. The lesson starts with kids reflecting on the written text of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” The words are typed out in a paragraph and the students reflect on the creator’s intent. They also decide whether the words are poetry or not.

Then, we read the picture book, What a Wonderful World  written and illustrated by George David Weiss, Bob Thiele, and Ashley Bryan. They are asked to reflect again using the same questions.

Lastly, we listen to “The Ramones” sing “What a Wonderful World” and watch the video (courtesy of YouTube). The students reflect again. This “tuning in” activity prompts an inquiry into poetry and the power of words.


Because of international copyright laws, I need to claim permission from the authors or band to use their art in my classroom. How silly. Instead, I chose to think that Louis ArmstrongGeorge David Weiss, and Bob Thiele are looking down on me and laughing because I have found a way to bring poetry to children thanks to their words…And thanks to a little creativity on my part, it can truly be a wonderful world.