Ask 100 teachers when,
if and how they can use copyrighted material in the classroom and you will get
exactly 100 different answers. We have a copyright confusion problem in
our education system. As a classroom teacher and now as a Technology
Facilitator, I see this problem manifest itself to the detriment of students on
a daily basis. Nate Anderson, in his Arstechnica article (a must read), puts
teachers in three camps when describing how they deal with copyright confusion.
1. See no evil. "It
can't be wrong if I don't know it's wrong."
2. Close the
door. "I can do want I want in my classroom, and it's
for the kids,"
"I will follow the letter of the law (or what I perceive it to be).”
The problem with all three of the personas is that they are all too extreme.
Let us take the road less traveled as we examine our rights...
We will begin with an actual presentation. While this could be used as a
foundation for your own copyright workshop, it also works as a standalone
overview a teachers’ rights as they pertain to using copyrighted material in the
If you do not see the embedded
Prezi above, use the direct link: Copyright in the
classroom on Prezi.com Also, feel free to use or remix this
presentation for your own needs. I did.
As it states in the
Prezi, you basically have four arguments (and an alternative) for using
copyrighted material in your classroom without permission of the copyright
holder. One or a combination of the four may be needed.
*All these descriptions
are basic, and are for reference only. It is advisable that you examine
the actual copyright laws prior using any copyrighted material without
permission from the owner.
1. The Public Domain
Copyright occurs at the
point of creation and physical licensing is not necessary. The copyright
holder has an all rights reserved license to that product for life, plus 70
years. After that time, the product is considered to be held in the
When using content in
the Public Domain you have every right that the original copyright holder
had. You can publish, reproduce, sell, perform, and create derivative
works, all without permission.
2. Section 110(1) of the
Copyright Act of 1976 (aka “The Classroom Exemption”)
Performance or display
of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational
institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction can be
used. In the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the
performance, or the display of individual images was legally obtained.
3. Section 107 of the
Copyright Act of 1976 (aka “Fair Use”)
The Doctrine of Fair Use
states that people can use copyrighted works without payment or permission when
the social benefit of the use outweighs the harms to the copyright
holder. Four specific guidelines must be followed to determine if Fair
Use is applicable.
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; 2. The nature of the copyrighted work; 3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and 4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
4. The TEACH Act
(Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002)
This basically extends
the “Classroom Exemption” to instruction taking place online. The key factors to remember here include:
You must be part of a government body or an accredited
nonprofit educational institution.
The school must have a copyright policy on the books.
The copyrighted material can only be accessed by current
students (This is referred to as Downstream Control – aka password
Whenever possible I
choose to circumvent the whole copyright conundrum and stick to
using media that is pre-licensed under the Creative Commons. For me this
is particularly important because a good chunk of my material finds its way on
the web or is not used for direct instruction. I also can not recommend
enough that you license your work using the Creative Commons and encourage your
students to do the same. Find out more at http://creativecommons.org/about.
I would like to leave
you with a list of online resources that have been helpful to me as I developed my own understanding about copyright in the classroom.