Copyright and Fair Use in the Classroom

Contrary to popular opinion, we as teachers cannot use any materials we want, anytime, anywhere. While the copyright laws do allow us some extra privileges (under the general heading of the doctrine of “fair use”), we need to make sure that we understand what they are and exactly what they allow us to do. And we have the responsibility to teach our students about copyright laws.

Here are some sites and other materials that will help you understand the way that copyright and fair use works, your rights under the law, and how to explain all this to your students.

Quick Reference Guides

The Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use

A short overview of the copyright law as it applies to educators. The article links to a quiz on the topic (with annotated answers) and a one-page chart (in pdf format) that outlines teachers’ fair use rights and responsibilities.

Copyright Guidelines for Administrators

Two short guides (in pdf format) that explains the general copyright law as it applies to school administrators. From Technology and Learning who allows reproduction of these documents for staff development purposes.

Crash Course In Copyright

Produced by the University of Texas, this is a collection of articles and references designed for their students but useful for teachers at any level and for instructing high school students.

More Detailed Information

A Visit to Copyright Bay

Although aimed at college teachers, there is still a lot of good information here for K-12 teachers and high school students. The primary focus is on fair use in the classroom. Start with Background Beach for an overview of what copyright is and the concept behind “fair use”.

Friends of Active Copyright Education (FACE)

An initiative of the Copyright Society of the USA, this is a very comprehsive look at copyright laws as they apply to the different areas of distribution (print, internet, music, etc.). While not suitable for kids, they do have a separate site called Copyright Kids which does a pretty good job.

Cyberbee Guide to Copyright for Children

A Flash applet designed to explain the copyright and fair use laws to elementary age students. Roll the mouse over each child in class and click to answer their questions about various issues. Part of the Copyright With Cyberbee site.

PBS TeacherSource Guide to Copyright and Fair Use

This is a short guide to your fair use rights as they pertain to video and other broadcast media.

When Copying Is Okay: The “Fair Use” Rule

A very clear explanation of what the Fair Use provisions of the copyright law allow you to do with published materials. Look for the five basic rules that test when is use a “fair use”.

10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained

An article by a writer explaining what can and cannot be done with published materials of all kinds under the current fair use and copyright laws. It’s oriented towards education (and is obviously biased by the fact the author makes his living in publishing his works) but is still a very clear explanation of some very detailed legal issues.

Other Tools and Information

What Is Plagiarism?

Designed for college students by the Honor Council at Georgetown University, there is a lot of good information for both teachers and high school students.

Creative Commons

This is a relatively new form of copyright license where the creator of a work (text, images, sound, etc.) decides to share their materials by giving the user specific rights to both use and reuse them. Materials licensed under Creative Commons are not public domain.

Citation Machine

Citation Machine is an interactive web tool designed to assist high school, college, and university students, their teachers, and independent researchers in their effort to respect other people’s intellectual properties.