Is sharing biscuits enough to embed copyright literacy?

When the tangible (yet transitory) needs to be supported by the virtual (and permanent)

  University of Kent: "Copyright CoP 26 Aug 2016" by Chris Morrison. CC-BY

On Friday 26 August we had the third of the Kent Copyright Community of Practice meetings. Although it was in my first week back after two weeks’ holiday I managed to get to end of the week with a relatively clear idea of what I wanted to discuss. Inspired by the adoption of the idea at other institutions I was keen to explore the ways in which we might keep our community discussions alive outside of the physical meeting spaces. However my big worry in creating a copyright resource was that as a copyright geek I might put together a whole list of resources and content that whilst accurate and pleasing to me, were actually not helpful to most of my colleagues.

In order to start to make sense of this I ran an exercise where I got people to look at a question from an academic that I’d answered earlier in the year. In this case it was about using an image online as part of a psychology research project. The exercise was really interesting and really highlighted for me that there is probably no “one true way” of searching for answers to copyright questions. It also highlighted the limitations of trying to discuss cases like this in a group scenario – that limitation principally being that although it’s really valuable, it’s also quite time-consuming and ultimately transitory.

But one of the main reasons for doing this exercise was to find out which resources people were using to look for the answers. My and Jane Secker’s research found that the majority of librarians and information professionals (76%) search for copyright information online with the next most popular source of information being colleagues (70%). It was interesting to see that only some of my colleagues turned to the Kent copyright pages for the answers and most of them went straight to a Google search. Two of the groups found themselves at the IPO’s pages on copyright where they found information on the research exceptions.

Ultimately the exercise and the ensuing discussion were really helpful for me to get my head around the best way to plug the gap between:

  1. the written copyright advice and links I provide when people contact me directly (mostly done by email)
  2. the discussions my colleagues and I have face to face, and
  3. the interest we all have in keeping our knowledge current and saving time when handling copyright issues.

I was really pleased to hear that my colleagues were highly supportive of the idea of moving discussion of particular types of copyright query into an online community forum. The idea that emerged was quite simple but potentially quite effective. We talked about sharing specific scenarios and case studies, but also linking this back to a set of taggable categories with some plain English descriptions of the principles behind them. there are a few things we’d need to work out about this but I think it has the potential to:

  • Build a repository of institutional knowledge and expertise
  • Create consistency in the way we treat copyright issues
  • Draw on the full range of our collective experience
  • Act as a “behind the scenes” space for development of messaging and support materials for those who have less awareness of copyright issues

I also think that this online platform would be an addition to our physical meetings, not a replacement for them. If this idea is going to work then there’s a bit of work to do in getting the platform set up so it’s really helpful and compelling, but I’m hopeful that we can base this on some already successful SharePoint sites that we’ve created at Kent to share knowledge in areas such as high performance computing (HPC) and Agresso (our finance system). So, these are early days but watch this space for further developments.

And the biscuits? This time the oatmeal and raisin cookies were far and away the most popular although they were still shop bought ones. Next time I’ve suggested that I might bake some myself, but I haven’t committed to anything yet. Again, watch this space for further developments. The provisional date for the next meeting is 13 September so not too long to wait.

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