Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Outrageous David and Goliath story!

Thanks to Tim Holt for this heads up. Please go to David Vs. Goliath: The Right Thing vs. Copyright and listen to go to Tim Holt’s blog and listen to the three-way conversation between first grade teacher Janice Schlottmann, Miguel Guhlin, and Tim Holt. This teacher wants to record reading the textbook and then download it onto ipods so her students can read the assignment along with the recording. Instead of just doing it, she was conscientious about copyright laws and contacted Houghton Mifflin. I was so surprised that they told her that she could not do that. What are they thinking?

I thought this was a terrific strategy to use with low level readers and students who are auditory learners. It would also be great for students who are learning the English language because they would be able to see the words as well as hear it. I have to admit that I have encouraged teachers to do this and never thought about encountering copyright problems. Of course, I would never have expected that a publisher would ever discourage this practice. I really think the publisher is missing the boat on this tremendously. The textbooks are already adopted and bought so it wouldn’t have any financial impact on the company. It seems like the company has a recording of it that they want you to buy but still you wouldn’t be able to let many students listen to it at one time. Can you imagine how much it would cost the schools (and the taxpayers) if they had to buy a recording for each student? The publisher has to know with all the funding cuts during these times that it would be impossible. Do they not really care about our children? What are they thinking?

By allowing and encouraging teachers to do this, it would also encourage teachers to want to use more books from this company. This would be a great free advertising for the company also. I could see the company just asking that the teacher mentions the company at the beginning of the recording. Can you imagine what kind of free advertising you would get if 1000 teachers were doing this? It would get the name of Houghton Mifflin in tons of classrooms and even homes. It would be sign that they really care about our children and the quality of learning they can get. It would show they are willing to be part of the community instead of just big business. What are they thinking?

After hearing this conversation, all I could imagine that Houghton Mifflin was thinking was “money, money, money!” I’m not sure I want to buy books from some company if that is there main priority. I understand a company needs to make money in order to survive but in today’s economic times and with all the open source material out there, this was just plain foolish.

On Tim’s blog, he gives the address of Houghton Mifflin’s Permissions Department and email address also. I think we need to go further than this. I believe people need to write the Chairman and the President of the company about this because I think they need to be made aware of the impact this could have on their company. I plan to refer to Tim’s blog post and to mine. Sometimes I feel that the people at the top may not be aware of what is being said down the line and may be able to help us if they want to do the right thing. Here are their names and the address of the headquarters.

Anthony Lucki; Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Gerald Hughes; President and Chief Operating Officer
222 Berkeley Street'
Boston, MA 02116617-351-5000

After I get a response (or if I don’t get a response), l will be contacting my district’s curriculum administrators, district superintendent, state superintendent as well as my state Board of Education with the outcome of this. By doing this, I will be making everyone aware of the situation. This will also enable me to encourage the use of this type of strategy in classrooms. Teachers might not be able to use this textbook company but there are others as well as teacher made materials that can be used.

Original image: 'Sparta (Wi) H.S. Spartan' http://www.flickr.com/photos/69078621@N00/215610375


Clix said...

Another possibility is that the publisher doesn't actually have those rights. The teachers might have better luck getting class sets of read-alouds and then contacting the author or the author's agent about creating an audio recording.

Sneezy said...

Publisher standard practice is to deny anything like this. It isn't personal. They rarely understand these things initially and defer to the safe choice. Keep pushing to it gets discussed, which leads to comprehension, and maybe acceptance.

loonyhiker said...

Clix: That is a great point! Thanks for the suggestion.

loonyhiker said...

Ezra: Sometimes it takes baby steps to make giant changes. If we don't make publishers aware of the need, they won't know this. Thanks for the encouragement.