Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.


Navigate / search

Why Not Cut and Paste the Whole Thing?

Googly-eyed and staring into the vast candy store of digitized imagery -all free for the taking- who will bother to venture into the complex, time-consuming and often messy realm of authentic creation?

Copyright law has changed in Canada to allow students and schools pretty much open use of all materials on the Internet. Previous to the change in the law many teachers allowed students to take the work of others and use it in (as) their own work regardless of copyright law, justifying their decisions in a number of ways. Does this new legality circumvent the ethical obligations related to such action? Is the student winning by this new privilege or does this action diminish their relationship with time, space and their own physicality? How does this change alter the classroom pedagogy?

Directing students to freely use the work of others as their own work is a curious statement about the belief one has in the ability of the students to create content, the value of creation, and the definitions of intellectual property.

The change in law certainly recognizes how easily one can use the digital content of others. But what does the student learn from the immediacy and ease of such covetousness? I suspect one unfortunate lesson the student will take is a growing sense of dissatisfaction with reality, particularly with that every present reality of TIME, and the related aspects of learned physical skills and the focusing of intellect which are part of the content creation process.

We live in a post Post-Modernist time and the digital landscape is clearing the way for students to take the whole work of someone else, calling it their own. Maybe in this capitalistic consumerist society, where the reason for academic study is now solely tied to gaining employment and no longer as a pursuit for intellectual and spiritual clarity, education should function as do other commodities. In Humanities we have held that our students' work should be attributed to the creator, however, We have long ago given this up in other subjects. We don't think of mathematics as intellectual property, we simply plug in some numbers according to someone elses rules and out comes our answer. We don't come up with the algorithm and we don't mention any mathematician's name and we don't even have to know how it works, or why it works, or be able to (re)create it, we just have to plug it in. Historically in an academic setting we needed to document the ideas of others in order to justify our own ideas. How different is it if we just take the whole thing? The only issue with the practice of cut and paste in school seems to an historical precedent against plagiarism, and NOT the concern that our students have little idea of how intellectual property is actually created in the first place. Still, in the face of the change in copyright law that allows students the right to use other people's content without payment or consent, one may truly ponder why a student would bother to struggle with original content creation?
Unless, of course, we're really teaching something else than other peoples' ideas. Like, maybe how to have one of our own.