Geekyteacher











{October 14, 2008}   Blogging here, blogging there

Why is everyone so crazy with “copied” material?

I’m part of several sites and everywhere teachers are like “You copied this, remove it” “She copied that, ban her”.

My policy is, as long as you cite sources and authors, you are free to use any material from Internet. Publishing a copyrighted text (mentioning the “owner” of the copyright of course) doesn’t have to become such a mess. It would be different if one cited a complete book that you have to buy to read it. But information in year 2008 is found freely through the Internet.

However, I agree with certain colleagues who want to ban a member of a certain community I’m part of because he just promotes his site without sharing with others, or another one who steals worksheets and says they’re his.

Anyway, the thing here is when people doesn’t get how internet works.

If you want good material, come here, go to the sites on the left side of the page, go to the sites I mention in my blogrolling posts, or just google for it.

And if you write materials for teaching (whether worksheets, essays or whatever), think what they are used for. Do you think that everysingle teacher would say “hey, I took this from [insert site or author’s name here]” to her students after printing your work she or he copied from the Internet?

If you think that way, I believe you are wrong. Generally people take materials from the internet as their own. So, be glad when you are cited the source of something, and think that perhaps people don’t know you or your sites may reach you that way.

If you want to take it to the extremes, think about this:

“Nobody takes xeroxes from books or copies exercises from books.”

if you believe the previous sentence, you are really naive. (And we all know books cannot be xeroxed because it’s punished by the law, but many people do it all the same)

Or better, think about this:

Would you make your students buy every book you want to take an exercise from? No. You may make them buy ONE book, and maybe compliment its contents with exercises from other ones. Is that stealing? Be honest. As a teacher, I’m sure you did this at least once.

Don’t be so worried about things that do not harm you. If someone cites you or your work perhaps is because the other person liked your work. Tha’ts how blogging works (Have you heard about pingbacks?) Take it as a compliment instead of feeling “robbed”.

(If I complained each time one of my students took my word as theirs… oh my god I’d be quitting the teaching business)

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alexcase says:

Hi GeekyTeacher

Well, I’m glad it is not just me who is stressed about copying and I’m glad this post is a little calmer than the last one you deleted! I’m sorry that I also went a bit over the top and that I wasn’t more polite about asking you to take down the article of mine that you had copied. This was mainly because I saw the article copied in its entirety without any comment from you, and so assumed this was not a real teaching site but one of those sites that copies all its content from elsewhere just to get income from Google ads. Now I have calmed down a bit I realise you don’t even have Google ads! (I do, but if there is any income from them it goes to the site editor who does all the technical bits and hosts the site). I think I realised even so that I had commented in haste, which is why I left a second comment and was going to leave a third before I was distracted by something else and then had to run out to get my Korean visa before the embassy closed.

As far as this post goes, I agree that we should keep things as free as possible, and at the top of the Worksheets page on my blog or somewhere it says that I don’t even mind if teachers write their own school names on the top of the worksheets before they use them with the students. The only restriction I give is on republishing without permission, and even then I recently let OUP republish one of my online articles in a book for free when I could have charged them. I would also have no problem with someone republishing something of mine that is only on paper on the internet.

The problem with copying whole articles from elsewhere on the internet, however, is that it does do harm- mainly by having a huge effect on the Google ranking of both the original and the copying site. Basically, that means if this article had stayed up here as well, instead of being, to give a totally made up example, top 10 in a Google search for “grammar explanation”, it might have disappeared off Google completely and so never be read by anyone. This is slightly disappointing for me (as what is the point of writing for no readers?), but it would have meant a loss of income for Usingenglish.com, as unlike bloggers like you and me they have invested a fair amount of money in their site for technical support etc and therefore rely on an income to make continuing offering stuff for free worthwhile. As the article already exists for free on the internet and your readers lose nothing by clicking on a link to it, there also doesn’t seem to be any possible benefit to copying.

I think this is an interesting debate, though, and to make up for asking you to take down my article I’d be happy to do an exchange of guest writer pieces, e.g. if you could write something similar but more general about your ideas of how much copying should be allowed on the internet, I would write you something for your site (exclusively), e.g. on working in one of the countries I have worked in

TEFLtastic blog- http://www.tefl.net/alexcase



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