Photocopier copying: Are you bending the rules? Confession is open!

Come confess one and all!
Most of us teachers are familiar with photocopiers and in fact, I’ve never seen a resources room without at least one of them and sometimes a secret one stashed away for emergencies. They may be used for copying registers and reports but the vast majority of their life is usually spent copying books or other materials. This varies from copying a chapter for a student(s) who has forgotten his book to a student copying an entire book because it’s cheaper than buying one. But how legal is it? Students always want more than their course book but are not always willing to buy other materials so it seems natural that we teachers add more materials. For course books the resource books/test books are not generally ‘photocopy free’ but are made to supplement the entire book. Even internet resources have copyright unless they state otherwise.Copying may also have something to do with the change in EFL books as we are seeing a wider range of books as opposed to course books which you can buy a class set off. The new style have extensive teacher’s notes and extra materials. Thus, we choose to dip into them and copy them for our students. The problem is how much should you copy?

Copyright law protects the rights of authors by stating how much of books we are allowed to copy, for an average book some put it at 1 chapter. This means that if you are relying on copies instead of a book you’ll have to resource every class from a different book. It also means that you’ll have a mish-mash of sources which may not be cohesive. While this approach may be legally-minded it may also be because some departments believe that only using one book is too limiting, insufficient and unprofessional in higher education, whereas a stapled pack with the teacher’s name on is not. Whether every school or institution follows this quota, conveniently forgets about it or just leaves it to their teachers, is their own decision.

So, here are a few questions I’d love to hear your answers to:

Should we just use class sets to avoid copying?
Should we copy bits and pieces of various books and hope we end up with a good bank of materials?
Should we just forget books and make our own stuff?
Should we go completely Dogme and use no materials?
How much do you respect the quota?
How does your institution enforce/highlight the law?

Confess your sins!!


3 thoughts on “Photocopier copying: Are you bending the rules? Confession is open!

  1. Is dogme always copyright friendly? If I bring In an article or part of a book couldn’t I break copyright to do it?
    another question or two I have, what about “photocopable material” sets? Are thy different? And how legally responsible are individual teachers/school for this (aka would/could the teacher/school/both get sued?)

  2. I’d say roughly yes to all of the “should” questions apart from the first, to which I would say no: when I have used class sets there have always been significant chunks I’ve not liked and not used, bits I’ve not liked but used anyway because I can’t be bothered, and buts I’ve liked but my ss have hated.

    For the rest of the “should” questions, it’s a case of “yes, depending…” and the condition for me is “whatever works best for that particular group”. That would be my first rule when selecting materials, and copyright, if I’m brutally honest, is far down the list. However, I don’t tend to rely on copyright protected material as a rule: modern course books seem to be more cohesive than they were, with references back and forth through the book so it’s hard to cherry pick without being disjointed anyway. I Prefer bespoke materials or, my increasing preference, none at all. Copying whole books is just cheapskatery, and from a teaching point of view is just the same as using any course book: so poor methodology and poor morality.

    I work in a fairly controlled environment with regard to copyright: a UK FE college, and apart from anything, copying is discouraged for cost reasons! We also share our own made resources via a shared drive on the college network, which means we have access to two or three years worth of resources and lesson plans from which to draw.

    In practice, then, copyright isn’t an issue, clear notices (the 5% rule) by all the copiers mean we are very aware of the legislation (it’s something to read while making a pile of (legal) copies!)

    I’d be interested to see what international colleagues make of this!

  3. Indeed – I see so many people copying things they shouldn’t – or simply downloading what someone else has scanned in (sometimes entire books!).
    I think it really depends on the institution and on the aims of the course. If you’re teaching ESP (e.g. for marketing professionals) then I can imagine there’s a need for really up to date (photocopies of) articles etc based on recent marketing products (as opposed to a ‘dry’ course book) but EAP could perhaps suffice with slightly older materials where perhaps a course book would be the way to go. Personally I opt for a book and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of ‘home made’ materials which can be (copied and) re-used and adapted according to the learners’ needs.
    At our university we have a pretty strict policy on copying and even have to count words and submit the totals each year to a national agency (incredibly time-consuming and bureaucratic but nonetheless understandable). We’re allowed to copy a certain number of words without charge and if something is available online (e.g. via an academic journal) then a link to the pdf is also free (very interesting debate in light of the Guardian’s recent article on Elsevier being boycotted
    So basically I’m all for the photocopier and printer but wish more people would pay attention to copyright rules – somebody worked very hard and perhaps deserves the royalties…….However, if more people (publishers?) provided a form of ‘pay on demand’ (such as The Round, or Edulang are doing I believe) then that would probably resolve everything 😉

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