If there is a area in education that is more murky I am unaware of any. There is so much conflicting information on what educators may and may not use for classroom instruction ,that most of us end up hopelessly lost reading the small print. So after reading everything I could find on the subject I am going to take a stab at figuring it out. Since I am not a lawyer ,just a humble educator , I always hope that the effort I put into citing sources counts. So here is my best understanding.

Copyright is the right attached to an original work of art or literature. That means whoever wrote or drew owns it and only the person /organization the author has extended the rights too, can use it. If you take someone else’s work and claim it as yours, they can seek to recover compensation (in a court of law) That’s the part that always scares us! HOWEVER there are the list of exceptions-otherwise know as wiggle room.

1. Copyright does not apply to opinions nor facts. So you cannot copy an entire sections of a work without citing the source-but you can rewrite the facts in your own style and you have not violated copyright.
2. Government works are not protected (The ones they protect are top secret and we never get to see)
3. Things published over 75 years ago-the thought is the author who owned the work has passed away.
4. The author gives permission and places them in the public domain. ( So if someone put something on the internet without reserving the rights it might be assumed they have put it in the public domain, but copyright may be implied)so cite the source.
5. Fair use- “Through the fair use provision, teachers have access to works far beyond classrooms or textbooks and thereby may expand and enrich learning opportunities for student learning.”

Fair Use
An educator’s best friend is the Fair Use Policy. They are many different definitions of Fair Use –and Fair Use DOES NOT Mean we get to use as much of everything that we feel we need to.

1. Copying- Is okay if done spontaneous, for temporary use. ( If you copy it do not use it year after year)
2. Copying a paragraph or section of a web page is okay-but copying the entire chapter is not. ( A good rule of thumb is to place the original authors name in parenthesis and/or the URL-giving credit where credit is due.)
3. Anything you copy in part, cannot be sold under your name without the author’s permission. No making money off from someone else’s work.
4. Music- general agreement seems to be 1/3 of a total song but not more that 30 seconds. There are many artists and sites that offer free music. I encourage the use of those.

On Wiki pages…
It is permissible to copy a paragraph to refresh your students recollection. Just give the source a credit.
If you use a screen shot and links to other sites-mention where the original content came from.
If you use 30 second clips from popular artists in a multimedia presentation for students, give the artist a credit at the end.
The main thing is do not sell the work.


The real issue behind all of this for teachers is a question of Morals and Ethic’s. As role models for students, teachers have a mandate to practice integrity and trustworthiness. While funds are always tight, we cannot be tempted to take what is not ours-it is in fact stealing. My district has not given any of us a raise in 3 years and with the cost of living going up I do understand how tight money is. The good news about Web 2.0 is that there is now so many wondeful resources that are available the public domain.


The best way I can describe fair use is this- you may uses pieces and parts-not the whole -and always give credit where credit is due.

Here are web sites that do a far job than I desscribing these issues:

Has a great chart you can print-so you know how much you can use
http://home.earthlink.net/~cnew/research.htm#Fair%20Use%20Matrix%20for%20Teachers

Standards for stermination if something meets fair use criteria
http://home.earthlink.net/~cnew/research.htm#Teachers%20and%20Fair%20Use

Fairuse Guidelines for Multimedia projects
http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr280d.shtml

A quizz covering many situations we all deal with-seee how you did?
http://www.techlearning.com/db_area/archives/TL/2002/10/copyright_quiz.php

Views: 41

Comment by Andi Sibley on September 28, 2008 at 6:57pm
You said, " So if someone put something on the internet without reserving the rights it is assumed they have put it in the public domain." I am not sure about that. I think the assumption is that everything published (online or in print) is copywrited automatically and you need permission to copy or repost someone else's work. You are so right - we are role models for our students and they need us to be a good example of careful, ethical use for other's works. Thanks for this post.
Comment by Kelley Irish on September 28, 2008 at 8:47pm
I probably should have stated that many people assume it is copyright free if they do not SEE a notification. My feelings is to ALWAYS cite the source site. Because it is a murkey area- Giving credit where credit is due goes along way to,avoid legal problems. Especially when the site you got it from may have gotten it from another site who got it from another source .... The cases I read where copyright cases proceeded to legal action is where someone claimed someones work as their own and sold it.

I hope the message I gave was-proceed with care, cite your sources and only ever use pieces and parts, of any information, music, art, or pictures you use for educational purposes. According to my friend an attornney it is all about intent. We should not profit from the work of others-instead cite it, celebrate it...and give credit where credit is due.
Comment by Kevin Jones on September 29, 2008 at 3:03pm
For #2 about governments, I believe that U.S. states can copyright their works, so what is published by a state is not necessarily in the Public Domain. For #4, copyright is implied no matter if formally reserved or not. I've also been taught to interpret fair use as only applying when the inspiration hits during the course of instruction. This means it really only applies for use once by an educator. There's no recycling for next year's lesson plans.
Comment by Kelley Irish on September 30, 2008 at 4:43pm
#2 Government-I check this with my friend the copyright attorney- She told me since WE are the government we have already paid for the work. Just be sure to cite the author or state agency. If you want to be really protected take the section you are using and put Quotes around it-then cite the government agency. Again cite the source sgive credit where credit is due.

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