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RE:[teacherartexchange] poaching other art teachers ideas


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Wed Oct 18 2006 - 06:35:00 PDT

>About stealing ideas, I am in a slightly different situation...
>I teach art in a school (I am in Portugal) where there is almost no "real"
>art taught. The classes I give are "extra-curriculum" meaning, the kids have
>to pay and only the one that want it attend. But I have noticed ( I have
>been at that school 4 years, teaching to kids from 4 years old to 12) that
>the regular teachers, from the small grades have started copying / inspiring
>themselves from my ideas... I don't know if I have to get angry or be happy
>that finally art is starting to get some recognition at the school! My work
>gets complicated because I have to invent new ideas but... I don't like to
>do the same works over and over again anyway....


Be happy! This is a great example of teaching art to both students and to teachers. I imagine that you get new ideas from the ways (good or bad) that you see other teachers using your ideas. This is how the world gets better through better education. Good art teachers are missionaries for the many benefits of art education. Our students become converts and missionaries as well. Our rewards go way beyond the limited successes in our own classes.

Our ideas cannot be copyrighted. Ideas are meant to be shared. Copyright only applies to a particular arrangement of words, image elements, sounds, etc (objects). The ideas contained in a copyrighted object are free for all to accept or reject--to use or toss. When we share original ideas with others, we are rewarded because we start to get more ideas as a result. The more we keep our ideas secret, the fewer ideas we will get in the future. When we share ideas, others build on them. They come back to us, and we see our own mistakes and successes--giving us more ideas.

The basic purpose of copyright law is to encourage the development and sharing of ideas. By protecting the particularized works, copyright allows us a chance to profit from the sale of our particularized objects. It would be counterproductive to have a law that allowed anybody to copyright the idea portion of the work. Lawyers love to get paid for figuring out where the line is between idea and what can be copyrighted.

The purpose of patents is somewhat similar. One of my favorite days was spent browsing the patent library looking at pottery kiln inventions. Without patents, technical secrecy would inhibit the flow of information that allows advances and progress. Nothing is secret in a patent. The information is free and open. Once you get a patent, the whole world can read the description and see the drawings of how to do something. The patent allows the originator to profit for a few years by prohibiting others from profiting from the exact same application of the information, but progress is encouraged because of the free information (ideas). Others may immediately begin to experiment on improvements and variations of these ideas. Often they come up with a new ideas that make the first patent obsolete.

As art teachers, nearly all of our teaching ideas are a rehash (slightly updated and improved versions) of something we have seen or experienced. What we come up with is also somewhat unique because our experiences are somewhat unique. Other teachers might be able to benefit from parts of our unique contributions.

Most of our artwork is also a rehash of something we have seen or experienced. Yet, as artists, we know that people are willing to pay something (not enough in most cases) for our original artwork, but if we are doing the work for other reasons, we can decide to sell it for a moderate price and buy more art materials (or in some cases we can give it to friends). We develop teaching ideas for reasons other than selling them (we get a teaching salary), so we may decide that it is okay to be paid a low price or nothing for our ideas because by sharing them they may come back in new ways.

In 1973 I paid another potter $5 for a set of kiln plans printed on two sheets of paper. It was worth much more. What if those who do not want to donate their teaching ideas to other teachers would package their particularized versions of these rehashed (improved versions) art lessons and offer them for sale on their web pages? When colleagues near or far want copies, they can give you $5 (or whatever today's price needs to be).


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