While some school districts have resources and policies to help teachers navigate the tricky waters of copyright and fair use, many teachers are under the impression that because they’re educators, they have blanket protections.
But copyright and fair use laws are nuanced, and just because you’re a teacher doesn’t mean you’re always in the safe zone. They’re also not a nicety: In rare cases, school districts have been fined for violating copyright, so paying attention to the details of fair use and copyright can protect you and the school district. Educating yourself on the substance of the issue is also important because as a teacher you model proper use for your students so that they can protect themselves, too.
Copyright and fair use law has become a topic of concern as technology has increasingly lowered the barriers to sharing, copying, and creating at any time, making us all potential publishers and distributors of content. It’s become a lot easier to break the rules. Particularly in the digital age, copyright is about collective responsibility and protection—and digital citizenship.
WHAT’S PROTECTED AND WHAT’S NOT
American copyright law originates in the U.S. Constitution and automatically protects all original, creative work in a fixed form; the moment a work is created, it is protected. Generally speaking, works created after January 1, 1978, are covered by copyright for a term equaling the life of the author plus 70 years after their death. The original works by Shakespeare, Dickens, Frederick Douglass, and just recently F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Alain LeRoy Locke’s The New Negro: An Interpretation, for example, are in the public domain and are no longer protected by copyright. In addition, copyright doesn’t apply to facts and public information, print maps, or government documents or pictures, so images and text from sources like NASA, the Smithsonian, and the National Archives can be used without permission.
The copyright for works that are not part of these exceptions is invisible and active at all times, of course, so it can be helpful to think about it like this: In most contexts, works created by others have a “No trespassing” sign on them. If you simply ignored a “No trespassing” sign on land, you’d be in violation of the law, right? Same thing with creative works, whether it’s a doodle or the selfies you took with a friend’s phone.
Within the context of educational and classroom settings (including online classes), copyright is a little more nuanced. There, even copyrighted material can be used if it’s for face-to-face, instructional purposes and the educational institution is a nonprofit.
Teachers and most schools are therefore protected fairly broadly, allowing them to make use of films and articles from sources like the New York Times or Scientific American, as long as they do so in the context of instruction. Sharing a link to a recent Washington Post article in your learning management system, or to a video from PBS or CNN, is permissible if it’s for the purposes of instruction and the educational institution is a nonprofit. Copying and distributing works created by others, however—for example, printing out whole articles and distributing them to your class—is generally riskier. In such cases, copyright law is more lenient when the copied material is not copied in whole or is not distributed to the whole class.
Be careful, as well, with any so-called creative works that you use in the classroom, like books, poems, movies, or songs. Generally speaking, even if you’re using them for instructional purposes, these types of creative work are protected. In most cases, school systems purchase copies of those assets—or the students themselves are asked to purchase them—which gives everyone rights to consume them. Meanwhile, if you’re using anything in this category for purposes that are not instructional, like showing a Pixar movie as a reward or during recess on a rainy day—without any instruction—then you’re clearly infringing on copyright.
MAKING SENSE OF FAIR USE
To add to the confusion, there’s the fair use doctrine, which is designed to promote freedom of expression (which is critical in educational settings) by permitting “the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works under certain circumstances”—a sort of legal counterbalance to copyright that allows for creativity. If there is a dispute about copyright, then judges use four factors to determine if something is protected by fair use.
Generally speaking, courts factor in the purpose of the use (did you use it for instructional purposes, for example); the nature of the original (was it fiction or more factual, for example); the amount of the work used (using all of the work, or especially important parts of the work is risky); and the value of the work (if your actions materially impact the ability of the artist to make a living, that infringes on copyright).
An important caveat: Use of content in the service of satire is OK, so if you’re using or creating memesas part of your lesson plan, you’re in the clear.
QUICK TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Given how nuanced copyright and fair use are and the complexities of digital use and sharing, these tips can help keep you in the safe zone.
Limit your exposure: Use a password-protected space like Google Classroom or any learning management system (LMS) to share published materials with your students, instead of using your class webpage. That way, you’re sharing to the students in your class only.
Use Google’s Tools setting: After a search for an image has produced results, click Tools/Usage Rights/Creative Commons license to filter images.
Use Project Gutenberg: It’s a library of over 60,000 free e-books (and counting) for which copyright has expired. You can read them in a browser or on Kindle, or opt to download them. All of Shakespeare’s work is there, for example, in addition to Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and works of many other authors.
Bookmark Creative Commons sites: The emergence of the internet spawned an innovation in copyright management called Creative Commons, which allows the creators of photos, videos, and text to apply transparent copyright rules and make the content available broadly. The Creative Commons search tool is invaluable for finding content you can use legally. Also bookmark sites that collect images, videos, or text that is shared under liberal Creative Commons rules—like Flickr, Pixabay (images, videos, and music), and Unsplash (photos); Noun Project (icons and photos); and Bensound, which has a library of free audio files—in addition to higher-quality files you need to purchase. Share the bookmarks with your students.
Don’t forget Wikipedia: It’s the grandfather of Creative Commons sites. You can copy or alter the text of this comprehensive resource, updated by volunteers who are often experts, if you include the backlink. Students should be warned, of course, that Wikipedia is subject to hacks (both malicious and comical), and the information should be verified with other sources.
Use resources from government sites: NASA, the National Archives, the Smithsonian, primary sources from the Library of Congress, and materials from state or local government agencies are a treasure trove for teachers.
Know that there isn’t an urgency exemption: No matter how desperate the situation or noble your intentions, don’t make and distribute copies of entire books, workbooks, study guides, practice books, or even an entire page from a textbook. Purchase enough copies for each student, or obtain permission from the owner to make copies.
Avoid copying and distributing “creative material”: Novels, plays, movies, and poems are far more likely to be exempt from fair use.
Use published sources: Never copy and distribute unpublished material.
When in doubt, reach out: If a publication or resource you need is out of print and you cannot buy it (e.g., an out-of-print book), reach out to the publishing company and ask permission to make copies.
Plan ahead: Don’t wait until the last minute and use something in haste.
Fair Use (definition)
Fair Use is an important copyright concept for educators who use copyrighted works in their teaching. The Fair Use doctrine permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.
Start by introducing them to the vocabulary of copyright, right down to the legal language, so that they understand that any original creative work, digital or nondigital, is protected. Then, ask them to sign their work and tell them that rather than turning it in, they will share it with their classmates.Why is it important for teachers to educate students about copyright and fair use? ›
The importance of educating students about copyright has been recognized by leading education standards organizations. These organizations view copyright education as part of learning to think critically about how to select, evaluate, and use information in a digital world.What are the copyright and fair use guidelines? ›
Section 107 of the Copyright Act gives examples of purposes that are favored by fair use: “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, [and] research.” Use for one of these “illustrative purposes” is not automatically fair, and uses for other purposes can be ...What are 4 things you can do with copyright material that is considered fair use? ›
For example, in the United States, copyright rights are limited by the doctrine of "fair use," under which certain uses of copyrighted material for, but not limited to, criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research may be considered fair.What can teachers use under fair use? ›
In many cases, you can use copyrighted materials for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research.Why is it important to know the rules of copyright and fair use? ›
Fair use is integral to the modern research process. You likely rely on fair use in your academic writing without realizing it! Without fair use, you would need to get permission from copyright holders to reproduce any part of someone else's work, academic or otherwise.What is the main difference between copyright and fair use? ›
What is "fair use"? Fair use is the right to use a copyrighted work under certain conditions without permission of the copyright owner. The doctrine helps prevent a rigid application of copyright law that would stifle the very creativity the law is designed to foster.What is fair use copyright for dummies? ›
Fair use permits a party to use a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. These purposes only illustrate what might be considered as fair use and are not examples of what will always be considered as fair use.How might copyright affect you as a classroom teacher? ›
Classroom teachers cannot, under the law, simply photocopy entire textbooks for their students. Authors, publishers, and other copyright holders can still sue educators if their conduct does not comport with the fair use factors listed in the statute.
Teachers receive a number of protections under the law in order to ensure that they are protected from unconstitutional harms and in order to guard their ability to effectively provide the critical service of educating our communities' children.Why is it important for a teacher to be fair? ›
When a teacher is equitable the students motivation increases, inappropriate behaviors decrease, student participation increases, peer relationships improve, and student work improves. As a future educator, it is important that I understand how to promote fairness in my future classroom.What is an example of a copyright? ›
When a person creates an original work, fixed in a tangible medium, he or she automatically owns copyright to the work. Many types of works are eligible for copyright protection, for example: Audiovisual works, such as TV shows, movies, and online videos. Sound recordings and musical compositions.What are the 4 fair use exceptions to copyright? ›
Fair use of copyrighted works, as stated in US copyright law, “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”Can I use copyrighted material for educational purposes? ›
Fair use explicitly allows use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.What are 3 examples of works that can be protected by copyright? ›
- A novel.
- A poem.
- A photograph.
- A movie.
- Lyrics to a song.
- A musical composition in the form of sheet music.
- A sound recording.
- A painting.
Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.What are 3 major exceptions for use of materials based on copyright laws? ›
You generally need to obtain a license (i.e., explicit written permission) to use a third party's copyrighted material. There are three major exceptions to this rule: (1) the face-to-face instruction exception, (2) the online instruction exception (also known as the TEACH Act), and (3) the fair use exception.What are the 5 examples of fair use? ›
Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.What are two examples of fair use? ›
- Quotes in books, news reports and blogs.
- Mash-ups and remixes.
- Parody, such as on television shows like South Park or Saturday Night Live.
- Video or sound clips in documentary films.
- Thumbnail images on search engines.
Respect involves treating students politely. Ridiculing a student or calling a student's comment “stupid” is inappropriate in all circumstances. Students expect an instructor to listen to, carefully consider, and give thoughtful replies to their ideas when they challenge the instructor's views.What are the four factors of fair use? ›
- Factor 1: The Purpose and Character of the Use.
- Factor 2: The Nature of the Copyrighted Work.
- Factor 3: The Amount or Substantiality of the Portion Used.
- Factor 4: The Effect of the Use on the Potential Market for or Value of the Work.
Copyright laws work to control ownership, use, and distribution of creative and expressive works. In this economic story about copyright, people think that most creators make their creative works so that they can get paid. When copyright enables creators to get paid, more creators make more works.What is copyright and why is it important what rights are involved? ›
Copyright covers both published and unpublished works. What does copyright protect? Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture.What is the 10 percent rule for fair use? ›
Generally speaking, the greater amount of the work is used, the less likely it will be considered fair use. Previously, courts endorsed the 10% rule— if a person uses less than ten percent (10%) of the total work or one (1) chapter of a book if the book has ten (10) chapters or more, then it is a fair use.How much can you copy without infringing copyright? ›
Under those guidelines, a prose work may be reproduced in its entirety if it is less than 2500 words in length.What is the best way to avoid issues with fair use? ›
- Use more original content than borrowed. ...
- Use a lot of different sources. ...
- Always give credit where credit is due. ...
- The more links, the better. ...
- When in doubt, stick to facts.
Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship as soon as an author fixes the work in a tangible form of expression.What example would be considered infringement of copyrighted materials? ›
If you copy, reproduce, display, or otherwise hold out another's work (such as an image, musical recording, article, or any other type of work that you did not create) as your own, you are undoubtedly infringing on copyrighted material. This is true whether you benefited financially from the use or not.What should teachers know about copyright? ›
Purchase enough copies for each student, or obtain permission from the owner to make copies. Avoid copying and distributing “creative material”: Novels, plays, movies, and poems are far more likely to be exempt from fair use. Use published sources: Never copy and distribute unpublished material.
Generally, one must obtain permission from the copyright owner in order to use one of the exclusive rights. Fortunately, copyright law provides some exceptions to this general rule that allow educators to make use of materials in these ways, provided they follow certain guidelines or criteria.What is the copyright law for classroom use? ›
The "fair use" allows limited copying of copyrighted works without the permission of the owner for certain purposes, including teaching and research (Section 107 of US Copyright Law).What are the legal responsibilities of a teacher? ›
- Teachers Should Provide Quality Education. ...
- Teachers Must Provide Proper Supervision. ...
- Teachers Must Protect Students' Privacy. ...
- Teachers Should Respect Students and Observe Boundaries.
- Immoral conduct.
- Neglect of duty.
- Substantial noncompliance with school laws.
- Conviction of a crime.
- Fraud or misrepresentation.
A teacher is responsible for preparing lesson plans and educating students at all levels. Their duties include assigning homework, grading tests, and documenting progress. Teachers must be able to instruct in a variety of subjects and reach students with engaging lesson plans. Completely free trial, no card required.How do you show fairness in the classroom? ›
- take turns regularly when playing with other children.
- share toys consistently when playing with other children.
- follow the rules when they are playing games.
- listen attentively to another person's point of view.
- accept consequences of misbehavior.
In a community, fairness looks like people keeping their pets in their own yards, people taking care of their trash, people respecting their neighbors, and people following the rules in their community. In a community neighbors also help one another and take care of each other. Fairness is a lot more than we think.What is a good copyright statement? ›
There are only four simple components you need to include: The copyright symbol © or the word “copyright” The name of the copyright owner or author of the work. The year the content was published, which can be different from the year of creation.What is a good sentence for copyright? ›
Noun His family still holds the copyright to his songs. The book is under copyright. Verb He has copyrighted all of his plays. Adjective The copyright date is 2005.What are the 5 types of copyright? ›
The US Copyright Office has five different application forms, depending on what type of work you want to register: literary, visual, single series, performing arts, and sound recording.
Section 107 of the Copyright Act gives examples of purposes that are favored by fair use: “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, [and] research.” Use for one of these “illustrative purposes” is not automatically fair, and uses for other purposes can be ...What is not fair use? ›
If your use of copyrighted material is not permitted under “fair use” provisions, you must obtain permission from the copyright holder. For example: Your use would borrow from the work of others beyond purposes of review, criticism, or help in making a point.What is fair use and how does it apply to teachers? ›
Fair Use is an important copyright concept for educators who use copyrighted works in their teaching. The Fair Use doctrine permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.Which is a copyright violation? ›
As a general matter, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.What are the guidelines for copyright and fair use for students? ›
Understanding Fair Use
Fair use only covers using quotes or portions of a work in teaching, research, or news reporting without obtaining permission. Usually, if you stay under 500 words or 10 percent of the material, you should be okay. As always, ask your teacher for guidance.
Fair use is a U.S. legal doctrine that helps support freedom of expression by allowing the unlicensed use of a copyrighted work in certain circumstances. Examples of fair use include criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research.What is a special rule that allows students and teachers to use parts of copyrighted materials for educational purposes called? ›
Fair use is one of the exceptions in copyright which allows use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission as long as the use can be considered fair. There is a four-factor analysis which must be applied to each use to determine whether the use is fair.What is fair use exception to copyright education? ›
Nature of the Copyrighted Work
Courts more readily favor, as a fair use, the use of excerpts that are informational and educational in nature and not fictional, as opposed to fiction and other highly creative works, including novels, short stories, poetry, and modern art images.
The “Fair Dealing Exception” allows any person to use a copyrighted work for the allowable purposes of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting, without the copyright holder's permission.What is fair use and copyright for online education? ›
Section 107: Fair use — Permits use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission. Examples of fair use include criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, and research.
Guidelines. Fair use explicitly allows use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.Are teachers allowed to use copyrighted material? ›
Generally, one must obtain permission from the copyright owner in order to use one of the exclusive rights. Fortunately, copyright law provides some exceptions to this general rule that allow educators to make use of materials in these ways, provided they follow certain guidelines or criteria.What is an example of fair use? ›
Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research—as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use.What are the 4 fair use exceptions? ›
As it currently stands, the Fair Use exception identifies the following four uses as permissible for unlicensed use: criticism; comment; news reporting; and teaching, scholarship, and research.What four things can you not do to copyrighted works unless you have permission? ›
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether it's of a commercial nature or for nonprofit educational purposes.
- the nature of the copyrighted work.
- the amount of the copyrighted work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, and.
Copyright infringement occurs when the violating party exercises any of the creator's exclusive rights to the work without permission. This includes all manners of distribution (selling, broadcasting, performing, etc.), adaptation or other copying of the work.Does fair use include exceptions for educational purposes for using copyrighted works? ›
Fair use of copyrighted works, as stated in US copyright law, “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”Can copyrighted material always be used without permission if it is for educational purposes? ›
Fair use permits a party to use a copyrighted work without the copyright owner's permission for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.What does educational fair use mean? ›
“Fair use” is the right to use portions of copyrighted materials without permission for purposes of education, commentary, or parody.