Library Services Digital Literacy and Copyright
Digital Literacy and Copyright – an interactive module for students
An understanding of copyright law is critical for students as both creators and users of digital content to make informed creative, business and ethical decisions. The Digital Literacy and Copyright module provides Swinburne students with a simple plain language introduction to copyright law and answers to some of the important questions they will encounter on their digital journey. The module can be used in any unit where students engage with digital technologies. It provides a critical component to help students engage with the broader legal and social context of their work in the digital future.
The Copyright Office in Library Services was seeking a way to communicate simple answers to questions from students about digital technologies and copyright. The project aimed to find an easy, engaging and interactive way to provide students with answers to some important questions around intellectual property law and other legal, social and ethical issues that they were likely to encounter on their digital journey. If students could be provided with ‘just-in-time’ and easily comprehensible answers to the copyright problems they encountered as creators and users of digital content, they would be better able to make informed creative, business and ethical decisions to support their digital creativity in the future.
The digital world contains extensive copyright protected material which may be available for re-use, and students who are creating their own digital content also need to know how to protect their own rights. As part of developing critical information literacy, students need to understand how the creative decisions they make when using digital technologies interact with the commercial and social impact of copyright content. In addition to basic copyright information, the Digital Literacy and Copyright module provides information on technical regulatory mechanisms such as the Adobe Content Authenticity Tool being developed for Photoshop and YouTube’s Copyright Management Suite. The operation of these tools introduces additional social and ethical questions that students may need to consider including privacy, surveillance, monetization, authenticity, attribution and ethical re-use.
The Digital Literacy and Copyright module is structured around the activities undertaken by students as they use and create digital material. Short plain language answers are provided to a range of questions clustered around five aspects of the students’ digital journey: idea > source > create > share > review. The module was created as an HTML object which staff can easily embed in their Canvas unit for access by students as they create their own digital objects.
The project team will deliver an operating interactive digital module hosted on Swinburne Commons that is available for linking to from any Canvas unit within Swinburne. It will contain up-to-date copyright information relevant for use in units where students are using Adobe software to create digital content. The module’s content will be licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons attribution licence. The content can be updated by the Copyright Office if necessary or modifiable by teaching staff as required to ensure it is relevant to the specific needs of each teaching unit. Pilot testing of the module will be conducted by a group of five teacher participants in the 2021 Adobe Innovation Grants project whose students are using the Adobe software suite to create digital content.
An understanding of the operation of copyright law is a key aspect of digital literacy. It is often perceived as difficult and frightening for students which can lead to them using or creating digital content without properly understanding copyright issues. But if they do so, their digital literacy will be incomplete. To remedy this, the module will provide students with a basic understanding of many of the legal issues they may encounter on their digital journey and provide them with links to authoritative sources to help answer their questions and ensure they feel more confident navigating this aspect of digital creation. This will improve their overall digital literacy both as students and later if they work in commercial environments. The module includes links to further information available from authoritative sources including the Australian Copyright Council and the Arts Law Centre of Australia. The answers provided also flag other areas where a knowledge of copyright will be important such as for games development and the use of databases.
Putting this module together required us to consider how students were likely to want to interact with information that can often be considered difficult and fearsome without interrupting their creative activities. When creating the content, we decided to adopt a first-person approach in the text, addressing students as ‘you’ to maintain a connection with their activities. We aimed to keep text short and sweet and only provided links to broader authoritative resources if necessary, to indicate to students that more detailed information was available. The emphasis on international dissemination meant that we needed to include a disclaimer to make it clear that the information only applied in the Australian legal jurisdiction.
As we dealt mainly with textual resources, we decided that navigation was a more critical aspect of the module than the inclusion of images in the design. We used Adobe Spark to make a promotional presentation about our plans for the module, but this could not provide the structural links to just-in-time information that we needed for the actual module. We decided to create the module in HTML – which could be modified by the Copyright Office staff using Adobe Dreamweaver. We produced an interactive module using our own navigation design that could be linked easily from within a Canvas unit. To connect the internal navigation in the module to the students’ digital journey we used text anchors and links/embedding for external video resources to enable simple navigation between the different creative elements.
The next step in the development process will be piloting the module with five of the other 2021 Adobe Innovation Grant teacher recipients who are keen to trial the module with their students. This will allow for fine-tuning of the content after which the module will be made available for ongoing use. The module will be hosted on Swinburne Commons and the sections which are relevant for international re-use will be made available on the Adobe Digital Hub.