Law and Ethics

Who owns student-produced content?

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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
http://www.splc.org/news/report_detail.asp?id=1560&edition=52
• The editors’ checklist (se section of copyright and ownership of work)
http://www.splc.org/pdf/editor_checklist.pdf
• Your questions answered: Ownership of content
https://vimeo.com/11841801
• Model yearbook copyright warning
http://www.splc.org/knowyourrights/legalresearch.asp?id=122
• SPLC model yearbook staff member license
http://www.splc.org/pdf/yearbook_license.pdf
• Prince George’s considers copyright policy that takes ownership of students’ work
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/prince-georges-considers-copyright-policy-that-takes-ownership-of-students-work/2013/02/02/dc592dea-6b08-11e2-ada3-d86a4806d5ee_story.html
• Maryland advisers react to school district’s proposal to control copyright of student work
http://www.splc.org/news/newsflash.asp?id=2522
• Protecting your yearbook: How to register the copyright to prevent piracy
http://www.splc.org/news/report_detail.asp?id=1694&edition=62
• Registering your yearbook’s copyright (directions)
http://www.splc.org/knowyourrights/legalresearch.asp?id=121
• Reddit’s press guidelines: Get permission from Reddditors before using their content in a ist
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/263067/reddits-press-guidelines-get-permission-from-redditors-before-using-their-content-in-a-list/#.U-vbWISkdm0.twitter
• Handle your yearbook copyright issues before you find the book for sale online
http://jeasprc.org/handling-yearbook-copyright-issues-before-you-find-the-book-for-sale-online/
• Principals, advisers and students face misconceptions about who ‘owns’ student work
http://www.splc.org/news/report_detail.asp?id=1584&edition=54
• Back to school checklist: who owns what?
http://www.splc.org/wordpress/?cat=13

 

 

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Welcome back – here’s a look
at what to expect in the coming weeks

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As we all head back to school, look for some new content in the next week:
• An article focusing who who owns scholastic media content and choices to establish best approach for students
• An article discussing points of questions involving yearbook ethics
• A first look at a Policy Package to will help staffs decide what they want as the best editorial policy, ethical guidelines and staff manual
• Continued access to our ongoing columns on journalism pedagogy, FOIA, broadcast legal and ethical issues, news literacy and more Making a Difference reporting
• Our annual Constitution Day lessons and activities

• In the meantime, check out these major points from the press rights commission:
Takedown demands guidelines
The Panic Button means of reporting censorship
Our Press Rights Minute
JEA’s position prior review
JEA’s existing model editorial policy and support
Online, photo and yearbook ethical statements
First Amendment Press Freedom Award application
A teacher’s kit for curing Hazelwood
Our Foundations series for scholastic journalism

Something you would like us to report? Let us know.

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JEA listed among key ethics and media law resources

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JEA has been listed as a part of key media law and ethics resources by journalism degree.org titled 100 Key Ethics & Media Law Resources for Journalists.

“Modern journalists, and anyone else working in the media, have thorny ethical issues to contend with,” Kara James wrote in a letter notifying JEA president Mark Newton of the compilation. “The sites,organizations and articles listed here are good places for journalists (or journalism students) to learn more about the legal and ethical landscape of their field.”

The site for the compilation is http://journalismdegree.org/media-law-ethics/ .

Among other organizations listed include:
SPLC
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Society of Professional journalists Ethics Handbook
 Nieman Journalism lab

JEA’s link is to the general website. Other JEA links would include the Press Rights Commission and the law and ethics curriculum for JEA members.

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Making our words matter

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by Tom Gayda
Rights vs. responsibilities. Or, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. These are the phrases to keep in mind when living in a social media world.

Putting the First Amendment in action is our right, but with that right is the need to be responsible. There are many things a person can say, but sometimes those things aren’t always smart.

Even adults have to be careful. I may not agree with a decision made professionally, but to call out my boss or colleague and question his or her integrity might not be wise. My job doesn’t owe me my First Amendment rights the way sitting on my back porch talking to a friend does. Sure, I can say what I want, but if I want employment I might want to be careful. My boss probably isn’t as interested in my right to free speech when it knocks him or his company.

A student encounters similar situations. Perhaps not even that bad. Say a math student gets a poor grade on a test. Math student takes to Twitter and says the math teacher doesn’t know how to teach. Not really the worst thing a kid could say but if the math teacher hears about the comment, extra credit opportunities might dry up pretty fast. If the same math student calls the teacher a more colorful name the punishment might just be a little harsher.

Not that long ago we actually lived in a world where a lot of things we were thinking were left unsaid, but now the majority of us our gridded up we can’t go too many minutes without sharing something with someone.

The best thing to do is think first. Does your comment add something to life? Is it necessary someone see what you are thinking? Sometimes it might be wiser to act responsibly and keep a comment or two private.

Everyone is working their way through how to speak their mind and be responsible. And while we are lucky to have the First Amendment to protect us, it is important to keep in mind that our words matter whether they are protected or not.

 

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National scholastic journalism groups’ position on Neshaminy policy proposal

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As the national organizations of journalism educators committed to the training of future journalists and the preparation of citizens for life in our democracy, we write to express our vigorous opposition to the proposed policy changes under consideration by the Neshaminy Board of School Directors that relate to school-sponsored student publications

We find the proposed policy changes, which give school officials virtually unlimited authority to censor student journalism even of the highest quality, educationally unsound, constitutionally insufficient and morally indefensible.  They are inconsistent with the student media policies recommended by national education experts.

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Remembering James Tidwell

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by Stan Zoller

If you were to make a list of the amazing advisers who grace the walls of journalism scholastic education notoriety, odds are you would start rattling of the awards he or she has won.

Pacemakers, Write-off winner, state JOY winners, Best of Show winners, etc.   And the list would keep on going.

Tidwell

Dr. James Tidwell

Recently, journalism education paid homage to a journalism educator whose program never won an award.

Not one.

But there’s a reason for that – he never taught scholastic journalism.

That, however, did not stop James Tidwell, chairman of the Journalism Department at Eastern Illinois from taking the lead as an advocate for student press rights in Illinois.  Nor did it stop him from heading up the Eastern Illinois Scholastic Press Association and being Executive Director of the Illinois Journalism Education Association.

Oh, by the way, he was also instrumental in starting the Illinois High School Association’s state journalism tournament.

Although his “home” was the college campus, Tidwell knew  journalism education began in high school.

So when pancreatic cancer beat Tidwell April 12, it was a loss for journalism and journalists everywhere – high school newsrooms, college newsrooms and professional newsrooms.

Tidwell quite simply not only talked the talk but walked the walk.

“James worked with high school journalism from his earliest years as a professional, but the fact is that his love of high school journalism started with his experiences as a high school journalist in Oklahoma, “notes Sally Renaud, IJEA Executive Director and professor of Journalism at EIU.

“He always talked fondly of his own high school adviser and her tremendous influence on his career, which included work on his campus newspaper and for professional newspapers. He has used his respect for his adviser and the passion she helped instill in him at an early age as motivating forces in his career in regards to high school journalism,” Renaud said.

How much so?  Just ask longtime adviser Randy Swikle.

“In the mid-1990s, no one worked harder on state legislation defining scholastic press rights in Illinois than James. I know,” Swikle said, “because I was at his side as he lobbied from office-to-office in the Capitol building. Hundreds of hours were spent devising strategy and campaigning for HB 156. At day’s end, the House passed the legislation 109-4, and the Senate approved 57-0. Unfortunately, the governor unexpectedly vetoed the bill.

Why?  Because Tidwell believed in a free and responsible press for scholastic journalism.  It was his passion.

And he instilled that passion through not only his knowledge, but through an uncanny ability to take – or rather make – time to work with advisers and journalism teachers.

“James was often called upon to offer his expertise and advice in such areas as prior review, copyright and libel. I often heard him on the phone with high school advisers who sought his counsel, who asked his advice on a concern or problem in their school,” Renaud said.

“He always made those of us who had the privilege of serving on the IJEA board as though we were a part of his family,” IJEA President Sarah Doerner said.  “It will be difficult to imagine IJEA without him.”

Fittingly, the IJEA has renamed its annual Educator of the Year in Mr. Tidwell’s honor as the “Dr. James Tidwell IJEA Educator of the Year” Award.

It will be difficult to imagine the battle for press rights without him.  Tidwell was a rare breed.  Awards and honors were not a motivating force for him.  Preserving the First Amendment and making sure scholastic journalists had a foundation steeped in press rights from which they could build a journalistic future was all the motivation he needed.

Awards?  They may look good on the wall, or on your desk.

But having the opportunity to work with James Tidwell and absorb his warmth, knowledge and passion was an award I know I will cherish.

The challenge I, and my guess is most journalism educators, face is how we can embody and continue the spirit and passion for journalism education and student press rights that James had.

I guess I just need to heed the advice of the late David ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister who once said “this is the land of miracles; the miraculous we can do today; the impossible will take a little longer.”

Emulating James Tidwell will take a little longer.

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