February 27, 2012

Our Bad Laws Make Us Criminals

Lawrence Lessig has been fighting the copyright fight for a while now and often says that "outdated copyright laws have turned our kids into criminals". If you're not familiar with Lessig and his thoughts on the law and copyright, this 9 minute video will help catch you up to speed.


So since our laws just don't address the reality of 2012 and the digital world of sharing we enjoy, most of us carry on and don't feel the slight bit guilty for a remix video or image modification. But beyond copyright, our laws continue to create unreasonable and unrealistic parameters and ignore the realities of a digital age.

Under FIPPA, it is an offence to store or allow access to personal information outside of Canada unless it is authorized by the individual the information is about. 1

See the problem? Consider the plethora of sites that most of our best teachers are using. Be it blogs, wikis or other sites, the current environment consists of small pieces loosely joined. Even when districts attempt to host clone applications and services, there's no way they can keep up with the variety of new services and tools available for students. Certainly it's not essential for our students to use every new tool that comes to rise, but at the same time limiting their use seems antiquated. In addition, we all know students and teachers who use these tools and spaces that blend both educational and social purposes. It's not as simple as the law would like it to be.

The current laws do nothing to acknowledge today's reality. We live in the cloud and we don't particularly care where the cloud is located. Many would argue we should care. Many see privacy concerns being ignored by people like me. I don't think that's true. This once again is tied closely to helping our students and teachers develop and understand their online identities. I understand the intent of the law is to protect our information and privacy and schools do have an obligation to protect. However the challenge is that these laws completely miss the affordances and opportunities that exist for students as they publish and share online. 

In the meantime, schools, districts and teachers will choose to abide by the letter of the law, ignore it, break it or seek work arounds. I fear for those districts trying to abide by this law and in turn rob our students and teachers of learning opportunities. My own district dealt with the modification of a privacy policy to address the notion of publishing students full names. With regard to the FIPPA concerns, I know of districts and teachers working on addressing the concern by adding a simple sign off to their existing release forms. I sympathize with districts trying to sort this out. They obviously want to work within the law, protect their students and thus those mandates outweigh the effort to make the necessary change. 

I hate that our government has to make great teachers and schools feel like criminals when they simply want to provide students with the best opportunity to learn.

1 http://www.oipc.bc.ca/pdfs/public/CloudComputingGuidelines(February2012).pdf