Copyright and Fair Use

I just completed an assignment which required me to research copyright and fair use (first useful assignment in that course, sadly), and I thought I would share some of what I learned here in case it’s helpful to you:

  • Your students in grades K-6 may not necessarily be expected to understand how much material they can use before they infringe copyright, but if your students are older, be sure to educate them about portion limitations.
  • Even for educational use, fair use has time limitations.  Make sure you are aware how long you can use materials without infringing copyright.
  • Fair use is defined in a nebulous fashion: err on the side of caution and either 1) obtain proper permissions, 2) follow the letter of fair use guidelines with regards to all restrictions and limitations, or 3) don’t use the material.

I found these sites helpful with regards to learning more about fair use:

Remember: You can find music, images, video, and other materials licensed under a Creative Commons License (which often just requires attribution in the case of non-commercial use, but check the license for the individual work you want to use).  Make sure your students know about this valuable resource.

9 thoughts on “Copyright and Fair Use”

  1. I'm leaning harder towards Tom Hoffman's ideas as well after reading this and then checking out some other links.

    I helped redo our district copyright stuff a while back and was so happy to get in references to Creative Commons. Now I'd like to redo it again but don't think they'll let me do it officially so it's back to underground convincing.

  2. Hello Toms. Thanks to you both for the links. I've been using Creative Commons a lot in creating my own work lately, but I think a lot of teachers and even more students don't know about it.

  3. Dana,

    I'm not sure what you mean by portion limitations or time limits. Can you add more. You should check out this report from the Center for Social Media–The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy.

    And a chapter on Copyright–"Copyright, Digital Media and Teaching English" in my book

    One point that you should note is the" Guidelines for the Fair Use of Multimedia,” though not law, are in numerous policies in school districts and colleges (e.g. up to 10% or 3 minutes of a movie)–despite the fact that they are opposed by organizations such as the Association of Research Libraries, the American Library Association, the National Association of School Administrators, the National Education Association, the U.S. Catholic Conference, and the National Association of Independent Schools (Association of Research Libraries, 1997- -

  4. Dana,

    That's what I thought you meant…but those guidelines represent the absolute safety zone of fair use and should not be used as a threshold. They are not law and (somewhere in the original documentation) state that they are, indeed, a 'minimum standard' not a maximum.

    In fact, in regards to the media guidelines (time and length), I think it's actually a disservice to teach those to kids….so do these organizations.

    Association of Research Libraries

    American Library Association,

    National Association of School Administrators

    National Education Association,

    U.S. Catholic Conference, a

    National Association of Independent Schools


  5. Hi all..

    The group that Tom Hoffman referred to in his comment from <a> Temple's Media Education Lab is due to release their <a> Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Education on November 11th. It will be broadcast <a>LIVE as well as archived. I hope to "see" all of you there…if not face to face, virtually. The work they have done is going to be really interesting for educators!

  6. Kristen, thanks for sharing that information.

    This is clearly an area I need to learn more about. Chris, what would your advice be regarding how best to instruct my students about Fair Use? I don't want to lead them down the wrong path, but I don't want to fetter them, either.

  7. I'd really recommend discussing the 4 fair use factors with kids and why we have them (and copyright) and then applying them to some mock cases and then apply them in their work. I think it works best as a conversation. I also think it ties into the idea of getting comfortable with ambiguity that we need to teach our kids (also, Creative Commons, as you've mentioned, is useful and thought provoking).

    I'm trying to avoid the shameless self promotion, but I did pour about 4 years of research into this book chapter (which my publisher is willing to share on the Internet)–"Copyright, Digital Media, and Teaching HS English"

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