Copyright education in the age of social media

Chris Morrison @cbowiemorrison – University of Kent and Dr Jane Secker  @jsecker – London School of Economics

Social media has changed the way people curate, manage, communicate and share digital information. Activities that until recently were carried out privately are now viewable to anyone with an internet connection. Arguably it is now more important than ever to understand what copyright laws permit, yet many social media tools used to share information encourage practices which can infringe copyright laws and conflict with institutional policies (see Even those with an understanding of copyright law find it hard to behave ethically given the constantly changing norms within the digital environment and the ever-increasing range of tools.

In this evolving environment where academics want to innovate and encourage students to create and share content, we ask participants to consider how copyright might inhibit academic practices. Our recent survey found that confidence around copyright issues in the UK is relatively high. However social media, and the evolving digital environment, were areas where respondents expressed anxiety over giving advice.

Through  game-based scenarios, participants will work in teams to explore the ethical challenges that social media raises, such as:

  • Can you copyright a tweet?
  • What is sufficient acknowledgement when using a photograph shared under Creative Commons?
  • Who is liable if infringing content is shared and subsequently re-shared on social media platforms?
  • How to balance the tension between personal and professional online personas and the different approaches to copyright risk these might involve. Participants will discuss the challenges faced by Copyright Officers perceived as gate keepers in the social media wild west. They will explore how social media challenges can help staff and students understand the complexity of copyright and IPR issues and be empowered through developing their digital literacy skills.

Reference: Morrison, C. and Secker, J. (2015) Copyright Literacy in the UK: a survey of librarians and other cultural heritage sector professionals. Library and Information Research 39 (120). Available at: (forthcoming)