If teachers in the Alpine School District break copyright laws and get caught, they will find themselves standing alone against a lawsuit.
The school board has approved changes in the district copyright policy that bring district rules up to date with federal laws and make teachers aware they can't do things like copy sheet music or computer software for their classes. If they do, they'll be held responsible.Brian Page, director of curriculum for the district, said Alpine has had a copyright policy since 1986, but administrators thought it should be updated and that teachers should be reminded the district is committed to obeying the law.
"If there's a suit, the district won't stand behind the teachers if they've violated a copyright law," Page said. "We want to really make the teachers understand we're serious about this. If they break the law, we're not going to pay for their legal defense."
The policy also makes instructors responsible for teaching their students about ethics and copyright laws. Board members had some concern about this provision, because they were unsure where this instruction should show up in the curriculum.
Page said teachers should simply take advantage of appropriate teaching moments in whatever setting they're in. For instance, computer instructors could talk a little about laws restricting software copying at the same time they teach students about the software itself.
Administrators will be responsible for ensuring teachers are obeying the laws. The district will also publish a list of items that may be copied legally.
The district policy is a bit more strict in one area than the law is, though. The law permits teachers to rent videotapes and show them to students. But Alpine's policy forbids this, because Page believes rules that govern video use are so complex it would be risky to permit the practice.
Teachers can use videos the district has purchased in the classroom.