Dr. Jane Secker is a Senior Lecturer in Educational Development in the Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) Department at City University of London
Sara: Welcome to an episode of Copyright Chat. Today, Copyright Chat is pleased to welcome Dr. Jane Secker, the Senior Lecturer in Educational Development at City University of London. Thanks for joining me today!
Jane: Thank you for inviting me, Sara!
Sara: I just wanted to begin by asking you, how did you get involved in copyright?
Jane: Okay, it goes back a little way, really. I did my PhD in the late nineties. I was really interested in digitizing collections and the implications of digitizing newspapers, and when I finished my PhD and was looking for work, there were a lot of digital library projects that were out there. My second job was at University College London (UCL) where they had a project to look at digitizing course materials. It was published extracts of books that were clearly in copyright, and they said, “Oh, you’ve worked on lots of digitization projects; you understand this, you must understand copyright.” And what was interesting was that I’d mainly dealt with historical materials out of copyright. In fact, I didn’t know that much about it, and I was very interested to find out more and through the course of that project found out a huge amount about how that was being managed in the states at the time. I was interested in all the electronic reserves projects and the work that was going on — that sort of work wasn’t happening at the time in the UK. And it kind of went from there. One other thing of why it intrigued me was that I found early on it was a subject lots of library staff didn’t seem to like very much. They wanted to avoid it, and that intrigued me.
Sara: You don’t have a law degree, is that correct?
Jane: That’s correct; no, I don’t have a law degree.
Sara: I think it’s an interesting point that you don’t need a law degree to understand copyright law. Would you agree?
Jane: I think I would agree. I think having a good understanding of how the law affects libraries is really important when we work in this field. I was very fortunate; I worked in the early days at LS with a law librarian a lot who also was teaching copyright with me, and so I think that gave me a bit of an understanding of how law works, the kind of case law, and how that relates to legislation. I didn’t have any kind of formal training in that area. I think that sort of background and being friends with the law librarian was really helpful to me.
Sara: I saw your presentation at ACRL in Baltimore, and it seems that one of your passions is copyright literacy. So how did you get involved in copyright literacy, and what are you working on right now?
Jane: Okay, so I’m really interested in information literacy and the teaching that librarians do to help students but also information literacy in its broadest sense about helping people get access to information and how to use, evaluate, and find it. There are all sort of aspects of information literacy, and I’ve been going to the European Conference of Information Literacy for a number of years. Three years ago I was at the conference and attended a presentation about Bulgarian research by a lady, Dr. Tania Todorova. She’s a lecturer in one of the library schools in Bulgaria, and she’d started this copyright literacy survey, which was to find out how much librarians knew about copyright to find out what areas of education they needed to know more about—so how much had been covered in their degree and how much they wanted to continue to learn in professional development. She was asking people to participate in the second phase of the research, and so I spoke to my friend Chris, who is a copyright officer at the University of Kent. I said, “Would you like to run this survey with me?” If we’re going to do it properly, it’s quite an undertaking to get as many librarians in the UK to fill this in, and it covered people who worked in museums, archives, galleries. He had a lot of contacts in that field. Together we managed to get over six hundred people to reply to our survey, which gave us loads of great data, but because it was quite a quantitative survey with a lot of closed answer questions, it left a lot of answered questions we wanted to find out more about. It did reveal the huge range of topics that librarians wanted to find out more about. Something that we started working on was this idea of how to teach librarians about copyright in a way that’s a bit more engaging. Traditionally thought of, or what some people said in the survey, is that it’s a dry subject. That’s not my style when I teach; I try to make things more lively, and that led us to thinking about gamespace learning and working on a card game to teach librarians about copyright. And on to our project we’re working on at the moment, which is another game.
Sara: I agree with you. First of all, I think copyright is one of the most exciting things that I’ve studied in law, and I think it’s a misperception to think that it’s not exciting and fun; it certainly can be. I’m really curious about this card game—how easy is it for someone to get access to this card game, to use the card game? Can you print it from a computer, do you have to order it, do you have to pay for it; how does that work?
Jane: Yeah, so when we were working on it—and Chris Morrison, he’s the real creator behind it—it’s quite interesting. We talk about joint authorship and what that means, but it was really his idea. I fairly early on said, “What would be really great if we were to produce this result for librarians and other educators is if we could put a Creative Commons license on it,” because that, to me, felt like the right way to do this—to be promoting open education. So we set up the copyrightliteracy.org website and we have the game available there; you can download it for free and slides that we use and the instructions. The key thing to know about the game is it’s based on UK copyright law, so we’ve been working with some US librarians who are working on a set of cards that are pretty much finalized and adapted, so it works for American law. We have an Irish librarian, and Irish copyright law is very similar to the UK but does have some key differences, so he’s working on a version for Irish law. And I’m trying to persuade some Canadians to work on a Canadian version as well. And then the idea is that all of those will be put on our copyrightlieracy.org website.
Sara: You can download it and print it?
Jane: You can—they are PDF files, and they have instructions you can print fairly easily.
Sara: And the Creative Commons license, just out of curiosity, are you using a noncommercial license?
Jane: We are actually. We talked about that quite a bit, and I think one of the things that we felt was that if somebody, like a commercial organization, wanted to make use of the card game, then they should get in touch with us and talk about it. So we’re really happy for any educational institution to use it, but we did decide to put the noncommercial license on there partly because we just felt it was appropriate—that it’s about copyright education and not something we’re making money out of.
Sara: I’m curious about who you think the target audience for these games are. Do you think that it’s librarians, is it students, is it librarians with students, is it just everybody? Who’s your audience here?
Jane: So the game was originally developed for librarians; they were the primary target audience. In 2014 there were changes in UK law, and there were some new copyright exceptions that were for libraries and education. So we developed it because librarians wanted to know about those changes to the law, but I use the card game with faculty. I’ve tried it with students as well. I’ve tried it with research students. So I think the scenarios we use are specifically designed more for the scenarios librarians might encounter, but it’s quite adaptable because you can make your own scenarios that apply more to teachers, or to students, for example. It can be a really great way to engage them. I have about five undergraduate students; I asked if they would come along to a session I did and what they thought of it. They weren’t law students; they were studying a range of subjects, and they said it was fun. They actually all said I learned something about copyright, and I enjoyed myself. They felt they’d learned things that were useful as well; that seems to me the most important thing when you teach anything, particularly copyright: you do need to pitch it right. What is it the faculty need to know, what might students be interested in, what subjects are they studying? I think it’s like any other type of information literacy. It needs to be customized and suitable for the audience.
Sara: Do you think that these two games build on each other? So for instance the first set of cards in the game seems to be about basic copyrights and what rights you have and what exceptions are available, and the second game seems to be about author’s rights an author might have. Do you think that they can be utilized independently or should they should be together, or does it just depend on what your teaching approach is?
Jane: I think you could use them together. We haven’t done that. So the second game, the publishing trap, is pretty much at a working prototype stage, and that’s really aimed at early career researchers who have recently completed or PhD students or someone a little bit further along in their research. It’s about the choices that they make around the research that they do and how to share that with the world. That game doesn’t assume that they know lots about copyright, so we’ve had to structure it quite carefully actually, because in some of the early tests that we did, people couldn’t answer some of the questions. We had some earlier questions about Creative Commons and they were saying, “I don’t really know anything about Creative Commons, so I can’t choose between these different licenses.” But we’ve tried to build it in that it is a standalone game, and you don’t have to have played copyright the card game first. And again you play on a team. I think that’s been quite important in both games—that they’re both about starting conversations, not necessarily that you come along and after the game you’ve got all the answers, but you come away aware of some of the issues. And then you know where to come back to when you have more questions.
Sara: I think that’s a really excellent way to get people to engage in copyright literacy, and I hope to see the publishing game, the publishing trap, when it’s available. I’m assuming it will need some tweaking potentially for different audiences in terms of the UK versus US versus Irish?
Jane: That’s interesting because I was just thinking that this afternoon, and I’m wondering if that game…it doesn’t make specific reference to the law. It covers fairly broad concepts we’re all grappling with. A lot of the things we’ve talked about at ACRL around scholarly communications about how you educate faculty about issues around open access and open education. It covers all of that. It covers things like article processing charges and predatory publishing. It’s got a whole range of things in it, so what would be great if, when it’s ready, to get some keen US librarians to actually road test it and provide feedback such as, is there something else we might be missing. I’m trying to think whether there is anything really specific to the UK that is in there — perhaps how our funding for research works, which might be a little bit different. But I think it takes the life cycle of an academic, and you start at the point in which you’ve just finished your PhD, and you’re being asked to put it in a repository, and you’ve got to make some choices. It takes it all the way through your academic career, through scenarios such as going to conferences, publishing in journals, thinking about impact, thinking about books, maybe considering open textbooks versus a scholarly monograph. Then at the end of the game is a sort of a point or award based on how much knowledge has been generated in the world. You play it as a character, and the characters get a certain number of points that show who has really been the most open. What happens when somebody outside of the academic environment tries to get access to their research? So there are various points when that’s sort of highlighted. If you only publish in a very traditional way, yes you might get high ratings, you might have high impact, but will there be more knowledge in the world? Many people who are in schools or perhaps the charity sector won’t be able to read your work.
Sara: That’s a very valid point. I look forward to testing out your game and will implement it and use it. The only thing that I can think of that might be US specific would be our grant requirements that we sometimes have in terms of making our data publicly available, and I don’t know if the UK has similar requirements.
Jane: We do, actually, and that is something in one of the rounds of the game, about funder mandates, and we put in a scenario about making data available. But it is something we’ve talked about because that is a big issue in the UK as well. But it will be really great for you to try it out and give us really good feedback.
Sara: Well hopefully some of my listeners will try it out too; I encourage everybody to go to the website and try the game and check out other publications that Jane has been involved in. I heard her speak today publicly, and it was really engaging and fun, so I’m really looking forward to trying out these games, and thank you for joining me today on the podcast.
Jane: Thank you, Sara, it was great to meet you!