In America, laws describe how freedom should work--but for the most part, we understand that freedom in America is really an idea with flexible definitions and many, many ways of being expressed. Similarly, we use copyright laws to describe how creativity should work in our society.
The California State Legislature passed a law requiring the teaching of copyright in schools applying for technology grants, and I raised an eyebrow... Maybe even two eyebrows. When we teach the idea of freedom through the study of documented laws, like studying the Bill of Rights, we're at our best when we teach that freedom works in diverse ways for different groups of people. So the same should go for copyright--if we're going to be teaching the idea of creativity through the study of laws like copyright, then we'd do well to take the same route--teach that creativity works in a lot of different ways for different people.
But I'm worried that that's not going to happen, and I'm not the only one. I worry that a generation of smart California kids, all attending schools ambitious enough to embrace technology, are somehow going to fall short of learning about creativity--that creativity's primary motive is profit, or that profit from creativity can come only through ownership. Those views may have been true in the past, they probably have some relevance today, but there are other ways of thinking about creativity, how it works, and how humanity benefits from it.
Although requiring copyright education is currently just a California law--there will be more and more reasons to teach about copyright in schools. Creativity through technology is a powerful theme for the beginning of this new century--the proliferation of tools used to create and manipulate words, pictures, and video has played a crucial role in democratizing creativity.
So I'm launching teachingcopyright.org as a tool to help teachers and administrators learn, talk, and teach copyright. Laws are a noble attempt to give strong ideas a living presence in our daily lives--but we fail to educate when we just describe laws and not the strong ideas that inspired them.
Educator, academic, or otherwise--please visit the site, comment on the blog, and help to build a strong body of knowledge for teachers to build upon. Creativity drives our human universe of industry, entertainment, and achievement--so let's get this copyright thing right.