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Facing ethical yearbook issues? Some thoughts

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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?

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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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The R-Word and the WaPo

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by Matt Schott August 22, the Washington Post editorial board decided to no longer use the term Redskins in its editorials (I believe it will live on in the sports and news sections).

This is a decision that seems to be pretty roundly lauded, particularly by Native American groups who’ve been fighting for this change for years. And it is a decision to be lauded. Continuing to use a racial epithet as a team name is unacceptable.

However, let’s not get hurt ourselves patting the WaPo editorial board on the back for its decisions. While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first.

No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania.

Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.

Even more specifically, you’d need to visit with the student editors of The Playwickian, Neshaminy’s student newspaper. 

While it is, by far, the most prominent editorial board to refuse to do this (and likely one of the most influential), it is not the first. No, for that, you would need to travel to Pennsylvania. Specifically, to Neshaminy High School.

In a decision that raised the ire of students, their principal and their school board, the editorial board of The Playwickian decided to no longer use the term Redskins (which is the school mascot) more than a year ago. A year.

And for that past year, they’ve been locked in battles with those aforementioned groups, fighting the principal who overturned their ban. The editorial board continued to defy its principal, threatening legal action if the school district continued fighting the ban.

The students’ mettle was tested when a student submitted a letter to the editor using the word, disagreeing with the editorial board’s decision. The editors chose to run it with the word Redskins changed to R——-.

Administrators ordered it to run unedited. The editorial board pulled it, choosing to run white space instead. The timing from the WaPo dovetails nicely with these students’ fight.

While I’d imagine this was announced because the NFL season kicking off in early September, this is also the time of year where students head back to school.

It would be great, as the student editors at Neshaminy headed back to their student newsroom – if the Washington Post, one of the vanguards of American journalism in the last 50 years – would provide a tip of the hat to these student journalists who showed them where the path of right was on this issue.

Perhaps the Post could send a letter to the students on staff, offer some advice or something of that sort. So often in the scholastic journalism classroom, it is students who look to the professionals for ideas and inspiration.

In this case, it’s the professionals who stand on the shoulders of giants. They should acknowledge this.

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Going online? Consider these points first

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This post is still in draft stages. Look for it later this weekend. Publish was made too early.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

 

john

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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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Updates on scholastic issues across the nation

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Several events in the world of scholastic journalism – and that affects it – occurred recently. Censorship issues have not taken a summer break:
• Both good and bad news exist for two publications in NJ.  First the good news. John Wodnick, the adviser of the Allendale , NJ newspaper, said.  “Thought you should know– the censored article was published today in the Senior Issue.  Big victory for Adelina and the Fling! Here’s the SPLC article on the situation (there’s a link to a pdf of the article near the end of the news brief):” The adviser of the paper has since resigned. So, while the students had victories with two censorship cases in their favor, their advisers lost. This makes the third member of the GSSPA board lost, John Tagliareni of New Jersey, said. 
In addition, there is further news, both good and bad, from Pemberton, NJ. The Student Press Law Center reported that The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, came out with its 2014 Jefferson Muzzles, the annual award it presents to those that “forgot or disregarded Mr. Jefferson’s admonition that freedom of speech ‘cannot be limited without being lost.’”  The organization gave the dubious distinction by “honoring”  principal Ida Smith for the censorship case.
However, the students are now fighting to keep their journalism classes. While the enrollment numbers are down, in the past, the classes would have been consolidated. John Tagliareni spoke directly to the students, who are fighting the cuts. They, and adviser Bill Gurden, feel the cuts are retribution for the battles and their victory of the publication of their censored article. Sound familiar? The latest bit of information is definitely not good.
• Neshaminy, PA, on the issue of using the term “Redskins:”
–Update: The Neshaminy board police committee voted Tuesday, June 24, to move the full policy, #600, requiring students to use the word “Redskin” for a vote June 26, Thursday. The board will also vote on a social media policy affecting students, #811.
–Principal confiscates last issue; then makes it available again.
–The U.S. Patent Office has canceled six trademarks belonging to the Washington Redskins football team, saying they are offensive to Native Americans. A related article provides more background on the situation.
–ajc.com wrote this piece about the issue of the “R” word.
–Philly.com talks about the controversy continuing.
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