I have had to delete a selection of worksheets from my site. The worksheets in question all featured a small number of symbols to which the copyright was owned by Widgit. Unfortunately due to their restrictive and inflexible licensing policies, I have been unable to reach an agreement with them over use of their symbols. I apologise if you were looking for these resources. It is my intention to replace them with Widgit-free versions at some point in the future.The backgroundWe have used a selection of software packages from Widgit software for many years. The staple favourite amongst my colleagues is writing with symbols 2000 (WWS2K). This product allows you to enter text with symbols above, and also to create grids of text with symbols. The software was never very user friendly and was replaced by Symwriter and Communicate in Print. When WWS2K was discontinued, our school was persuaded (some might say conned) to upgrade to Symwriter which was meant to offer similar functionality. We also purchased a smaller number of copies of Communicate in Print to compare the products.It seemed we now needed two products to do what we had been able to do with one product before. That isn’t progress – that’s software company greed! Neither product was particularly intuitive to use and so symbol use at our special school dropped to lower levels as a result.As I’ve mentioned on my blog before I share my resources to help other teachers. I also hope that some of them may serve as examples of good practice. It’s easy to forget that software companies exist only to make money – as I found out in my dealings with Widgit software.The reasonI contacted Widgit software after reading copyright information from their site. Not finding their site easy to navigate I’d searched Google for their copyright terms. I then emailed Widgit to request permission to share 17 worksheets, most less than a page in size and containing a small amount of text (and thus symbols). I was amazed to find that the copyright information on their site was out of date and amended immediately following my email. (In fact it was changed again later in the week – that’s twice in 8 days).Emails went back and forth between myself and Widgit regarding my request to share (for no cost or profit) these 17 science worksheets. In fact Widgit obviously liked the material because they said the following:“You do have some good worksheets here and we would be interested in working with you to make these available in Communicate: In Print as downloads on our website. We would use your ideas and do the work. We do work with a variety of people that make resources for our site who currently receive a royalty for their ideas. Would you be interested in this arrangement?”I offered Widgit the change to distribute my worksheets royalty free (I’m not interested in making money from my resources) if they would allow me to distribute the 17 worksheets I had already submitted for approval. I tried to explain to Widgit that my worksheets served as free advertising but they seemed more interested in getting me to pay. (You’ll see that my resources site pulls in a steady stream of downloaders – that’s free advertising!).
I can’t blame Widgit. Their software is clunky, unwieldy and difficult to use (say my colleagues) and the only unique selling point they have is the collection of symbols. They maintain their stranglehold on the copyright of these symbols in order to stay in business. It’s a pity that their licensing terms are so draconian and inflexible – but businesses who sell to education are in it for totally different reasons to the teachers who use them!(And for your information the symbol at the top of the page is facepalm – it seemed appropriate to describe Widgit’s attitude!)Update: Just to add these views are my personal opinion, formed after speaking informally to colleagues where I work. As with all my blog posts they do not represent the opinions of my employer.