"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press"

Noteworthy this week in support of student expression


With Constitution Day (Sept. 17) and its Congressional mandate to teach a lesson on constitutional issues, the press rights commission would like to highlight a couple of points:

• NCTE released a statement, NCTE Beliefs about Students’ Right to Write, that could lead to lessons and discussion.
• Fond du Lac High School in Wisconsin received new guidelines for their Cardinal Columns that allow students, in consultation with the adviser, to decide content without prior review. For more information and how it came about, check jeasprc.org in the next several weeks.
• Later this week, check this blog for the JEA Scholastic Press Rights Commission Constitution Day teaching lessons and activities. Until then, you can find previous lessons here.  We designed our Constitution Day lesson plans to help students celebrate the Constitution and Bill of Rights, as mandated by Congress. Legislation requires schools to offer lessons on the Constitution and how it affects all Americans. Our lesson plans emphasize the First Amendment and particularly the freedoms of speech and the press.

With Constitution Day close, you might want to work our lessons when released Friday into that timeframe. One post will win a $25 gift certificate for the JEA bookstore. It’s easy to enter — just use the #CD2014. The winner will be chosen at random. In order to enter, post either students learning or celebrating Constitution Day by at 9:17 p.m Sept. 17. The winning post will be announced on the listserv.


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Fond du Lac gets new policy,
content in hands of students, adviser


Students at Wisconsin’s Fond du Lac High have a new editorial policy this fall after a spring and summer of working to reach compromise that would end prior review and restraint.

Reporter Sharon Roznik wrote in the  local  fdlreporter the board of education would support guidelines that give the “final decision-making process for publication ‘lies with the editors-in-chief and the editorial board in consultation with the faculty adviser.’”

Roznik and Cardinal Columns adviser Matt Smith report that Smith “has the authority” to refuse publication if material is libelous or obscene or can be called unprotected speech.

Roznik quotes Smith as appreciative of the board working with him and students obtain a solution.

“The students and I will meet regularly with the principal and/or district staff to discuss how things are going and continue building understanding about best practices for scholastic journalism as well as appreciation for how well our students operate and how much they deserve our trust and support. ” Smith wrote in an email earlier this month.”

Smith, wrote Roznik, said the best thing for the district in the long run is to make the Cardinal Columns a public forum for student expression.

To see the new policy guidelines, go here.

For background on the issue, go herehere and here.


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Facing ethical yearbook issues? Some thoughts


by Mary Kay Downes
sprclogoThe very nature of a yearbook being the permanent record of the year presents numerous issues which primarily have to do with the permanency of the book. Yearbooks live forever! Often yearbooks are viewed as a public relations tool of the school, and the administration and/or community are reluctant to have any coverage at all which they would deem not supporting a pristine image of the institution.

This leads to self-censorship at best, and prior review or restraint at worst, as well as a myriad of other problems

Yearbook is a paid product compared to regular student media. We have an audience to satisfy, and because of this, we must considering their wants/needs differently than we do with a news website or news magazine because we want them to buy the book to pay the bill and be self-sustaining.

Although we absolutely don’t want to compromise journalism standards just to get students to buy the book, yearbook students are still obligated to cover everything, with accuracy and integrity, even as they’re trying to create a product people want to purchase.

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Who owns student-produced content?


sprclogoScenario: Student journalists have just completed their first converged media assignments and are just about ready for publication across the various platforms. Several indicate they think their work is good enough to share with other groups.Can they legally or ethically do that with repercussion?

By Mark Goodman

The question of who owns the copyright of work created for scholastic media is complex, but at some point, advisers need to answer that question. The sooner that is decided, the better for all.

One thing for certain, Mark Goodman, former executive director of the Student Press Law Center and current Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, said it is almost impossible for a school to claim copyright in the works students create.

“Absent a written assignment of rights signed by both student and parent (if the student is a minor),” Goodman said, “students retain the copyright to works they create.”

That’s not because public schools can’t own copyright, he said, it’s because students are not employees and the works they create are not “works for hire.” The fact they may be getting credit for a class does not change that. 

If I were advising a student publication about dealing with its copyright ownership issues from this point forward, I would say the best tactic is to have every staff member (and a parent/guardian if they are a minor) sign something at the beginning of the year that says they are assigning the copyright in the works they submit to the publication to THAT PUBLICATION, or giving a permanent license to the student publication to use those works.”

In addition, there are real downsides to a school owning the copyright to student works, Goodman said.  For example, if a school owns it, it can control how it is used.  That inherently includes extensive censorship rights.

“If I were advising a student publication about dealing with its copyright ownership issues from this point forward,” Goodman said, “I would say the best tactic is to have every staff member (and a parent/guardian if they are a minor) sign something at the beginning of the year that says they are assigning the copyright in the works they submit to the publication to THAT PUBLICATION, or giving a permanent license to the student publication to use those works.”

He said it is possible for an student publication to own a copyright but that doesn’t make it belong to the school.

“Insert in your publication handbook or policy document a statement that states your student publication staff has authority over the copyrights owned by or licensed to the publication,” Goodman said.  “If someone ever uses your publication’s contents without permission in violation of the copyright, you’ll have clear authority for asking them to stop.”

If student work is already distributed and others use it without permission, Goodman said he would recommend advisers and students act as if the publication itself owns the copyright, whether there is written documentation or not.  A letter to the infringer requesting they take the material down immediately would be appropriate.

Goodman developed a model statement of who owns student works.

Goodman also said the SPLC’s Mike Hiestand wrote an excellent piece on copyright ownership on the SPLC blog .

For additional ownership resources:

• Now that it’s online… is it still mine
• The editors’ checklist (se section of copyright and ownership of work)
• Your questions answered: Ownership of content
• Model yearbook copyright warning
• SPLC model yearbook staff member license
• Prince George’s considers copyright policy that takes ownership of students’ work
• Maryland advisers react to school district’s proposal to control copyright of student work
• Protecting your yearbook: How to register the copyright to prevent piracy
• Registering your yearbook’s copyright (directions)
• Reddit’s press guidelines: Get permission from Reddditors before using their content in a ist
• Handle your yearbook copyright issues before you find the book for sale online
• Principals, advisers and students face misconceptions about who ‘owns’ student work
• Back to school checklist: who owns what?



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