Digital content: Does “ technologically possible” mean it happens in the real world?

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 by Katia Colucci

We said that digital content enables a new way to build our personal  knowledge. Technology allows us to enrich content in real time as our whims command.

Focusing on the education sector the digital content and the other technological instruments can bring a real revolution in teaching methods and in learning processes.

Teachers can deliver, for example, a history lesson visualizing the ancient map of Mesopotamia on the LIM (electronic blackboard), enabling a real time comparison with the modern map of the same region and its countries. Students can follow the lesson looking at the LIM but also on their personal devices, adding notes and links.   And it’s possible to add videos or photos or other materials provided by teachers or downloaded from specialized sites.

This is the scenario we are testing with the Future of Learning trial, but even if it’s possible from a technological point of view, it may be difficult to implement in the real world because of legal constraints.

The current copyright legislation forbids any modification of content covered by copyright. It’s also forbidden to select a chapter from a book and insert it into another book. It’s forbidden to pick up a photo from a book and reproduce it in another contest. Generally speaking it’s forbidden any  form of mash up of content if  the content is copyrighted.

This means that the state of the art of legislation is an obstacle to the future we imagine. In order to respect legal constraints it’s mandatory to protect with DRM every content covered by copyright. The digital content is “frozen” in its original state.

It’s clear that we are at the beginning of a new age and, as it often happens, technology steps ahead whilst habits, law and  culture follow.

The first followers are usually the stakeholders from a business point of view. It’s not a case that publishers are joining initiatives like the Future of Learning trial or other similar initiatives.

Legislation Is usually slower. The current copyright law in Italy dates back to 1941 and it is obviously centered on the traditional paper made book. We can’t say how much time it will require but we are almost sure that rules have to change to better fit the modern contest also taking into account the international dimension.