Fair Use and Copyright in Education

Is it fair to use copyrighted material for educational purposes?

The short answer is it depends.  It depends on the context and situation for which the material will be used.  This, by its very nature, lends itself to more grey areas than 50 Shades of Grey.

Did you know copyright laws were developed to “promote creativity, innovation and the spread of knowledge?”, according to U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.

As a social studies teacher, I am often gathering resources from a variety of places for both classroom and professional development purposes with little time to pause to check for copyright licensing.  To avoid infringing a work’s copyright, I have developed a simple mantra guiding my use of others’ material, ‘Give credit where credit is due.’  However, its often not so simple…

A journey through the fair use/copyright jungle.

In preparation for the 2012-13 school year professional development days, I was asked to create and lead a PD opportunity on Flipping the Classroom, an emerging best practice in education.  The extent of my brushes with flipping have come from YouTube, Twitter and several blogs and listservs.  All of these resources had been compiled, created or curated by others.  In putting together my presentation, I decided to flip the PD through the use of VoiceThread which would house all of resources.  In doing so, I decided I would show a 3-4 minute clip from TechChef4u’s blog about flipping, a resource I used to gain my knowledge on the subject matter.  Storing this on the VoiceThread meant I had to screencast it and upload the .mov file as a video I “created.”

This experience caused me to wonder if I had been violating copyright or following fair use practices in capturing the video clip this way.  In the presentation, I decided it’s best to give credit by showing where the video (and others like it) had come from originally, the TechChef4u blog.

Though still unsure if my use of the video falls into the fair use and copyright laws, I have been able to discern it most likely doesn’t by examining Cornell University’s Fair Use Checklist.  My VoiceThread was not only educational, it was made for an entirely new purpose of professional development specific to my faculty.  Also, it uses only a small quantity of material where I am not the creator and that material is not central to the work.  Lastly, it was made for one-time, specific professional development distributed to a very limited number of faculty at my school.  Finally, according to the Center for Social Media’s Code for Best Practices of Use of Online Video, my use of the clip was part of the assembly of a new work (VoiceThread) and for the purpose of launching a discussion of how best to implement the pedagogy.  Using these two sources as a guide, I have concluded my use of the video clip was okay as it followed many parts of the fair use policy.

How about when guiding students’ creation?

As the technology use increases exponentially in my classroom and many others, I have come to use a few tools in order to be more compliant with fair use and copyrighting.

  1. Always credit the original source.  Include a link back to the original work if possible.
  2. When using media, try to use works with Creative Commons Licensing.  Use the Creative Commons Search when looking for picture, video and audio files.
  3. Only use small amounts of others’ work to enhance your own thoughts/ideas.

In my quest to discern the extent to which copyright and fair use guidelines apply to my own practice, I have come to three conclusions:

  • Though copyright law is aimed at promoting an exchange of ideas, it is in place to protect authors’ works.
  • When using unoriginal material for education purposes, it is best to adhere to the guidelines of fair use as much as possible.
  • In a world where there are constant productions and reproductions, it is important for educators to not only understand these principles but to also model and teach their students to follow the guidelines.

 

How have copyright and fair use affected your teaching and learning?

 

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Author: camreich

Director of Technology and Instruction, Salesianum School

4 thoughts on “Fair Use and Copyright in Education”

  1. I agree that it is important to model this fair use with your kids. As a student, I do not remember using citations or citing work until the upper grades of middle school. With technology making all sorts of resources available to students, this is becoming necessary earlier in life. It is important that they realize their obligation to give credit when necessary.

  2. For all the history/social studies nerds (that includes me), the actual wording of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution reads:

    “The Congress shall have Power … to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” (accessed from http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html).

    There is now way the founding fathers could have known that things like videos, wikis and digitally downloaded songs would be covered by this passage. It is a testament to their forethought and legal acumen that something written 236 years ago can apply to or 21st century technologies. Those guys were geniuses.

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