Without a doubt, one topic that confuses teachers (and students) more than any other really has little to do with technology.

It’s their fair use rights under American copyright law.

And, according to a new report, that lack of understanding negatively affects how teachers use media in their classroom as well as their ability to teach media literacy to their students.

The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy, based on scores of longform interviews with teachers, shows that the fundamental goals of media literacy education–to cultivate critical thinking and expression about media and its social role–are compromised by unnecessary copyright restrictions. As a result of poor guidance, counterproductive guidelines, and fear, teachers use less effective teaching techniques, teach and transmit erroneous copyright information, fail to share innovative instructional approaches, and do not take advantage of new digital platforms.

This is not only unfortunate but unnecessary, since copyright law permits a wide range of uses of copyrighted material without permission or payment. However, educators today have no consensus around what constitutes acceptable fair use practices. The report concludes with a call for educators to develop a consensus around their interpretation of their most valuable copyright tool: fair use.

The recommendations of the writers are directed primarily at “media literacy teachers” and many educators in K12 schools probably won’t see themselves in that description.

But shouldn’t the creation and use of media be a topic addressed by every teacher, in every classroom?

The full report (link to pdf) is an interesting read.

copyright, media literacy, fair use, education