Houses of academia, especially high schools and colleges, are seen as the main battleground in the war on plagiarism. Student papers are among the most checked works and harsh penalties are often levied against students who steal for academic gain.
This has been coupled with and education program that teaches students how and when to cite other people’s works. This usually involves some level of instruction in MLA citation style and information about how to avoid accidentally plagiarizing other people’s works.
All of this work, though very good, leaves out a great deal of important information.
First is that it doesn’t delve into copyright law itself. There’s a lot of misconception about copyright law and that’s fostered by little to no formal education on the subject.
Personally, I only learned aboutcopyright law from my father who, in turn, didn’t learn it until he attended a seminar at his work on the subject. The only formal education I got on the subject was a primer on it in my mass media law class in college. A course that I took in my junior year and only had to take only because I was a journalism major.
Copyright law affects every aspect of both creative, business and academic life and some education on the subject makes sense. Even just an overview would be an improvement and would go a long way to helping students both understand their rights and avoid impeding on the rights of others. It would also put to rest many of the (often silly) misconceptions people have about copyright law.
The second thing is that such an education never expands the notion of plagiarism beyond the hallowed halls of school. With personal publishing more popular than ever, more and more students are putting themselves at risk for copyright problems, both as the victim and as the infringer, or are growing up to engage in such activities.
In addition to the very good academic-oriented instruction and monitoring that’s going on now, there needs to be some broader education on copyright. Because the risk of copyright problems doesn’t stop at the school’s doors or end with graduation. It’s an ongoing issue that follows students through the rest of their creative and business life.
And, sadly, it’s an issue almost all of them are very ill equipped to handle.