Copyright issues in the classroom and beyond …

|| Internet Myths || Fair Use || Portion Limitations || Citing Sources || Getting Permission || Useful Links ||

What is copyright infringement?
The instance of using or reproducing someone's creative work without their permission. Copyright laws protect "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression."

Who's responsibility is it to decide what's copyrightable?
In the USA anything original created since March 1, 1989 is assumed to be copyrighted, whether it has a notice or not. Teachers need to make students aware of the responsibilities of using the Internet, such as protecting privacy and intellectual property.

Internet Myths:

Source: J. Dianne Brinson and Mark F. Radcliffe.An Intellectual Property Law Primer for Multimedia and Web Developers [Online] Available, 1996

Copying Material from the Net -- Don't make the mistake of believing these myths about copying material from the Net:

Internet Myth #1: If I find something on the Net, it s okay to copy it and use it without getting permission.
While you are free to copy public domain material that you find on the Net, generally you should not copy copyrighted material without getting permission from the copyright owner whether you find the material on the Net or in a more traditional medium (book, music CD, software disk, etc.).

Internet Myth #2: Anyone who puts material on a Web server wants people to use that material, so I can do anything I want with material that I get from a Web server.
Individuals and organizations put material on a Web server to make it accessible by others. They do not give up their copyright rights by putting material on a Web server. Also, the person who posted the material may not own it.

Internet Myth #3: It's okay to copy material from a Home Page or website without getting permission.
Much of the material that appears in websites and Home Pages is protected by copyright. If you want to use something from someone else's Home Page or website, get permission unless permission to copy is granted in the text of the Home Page or website. Posting Material: And don't believe these myths about how copyright law applies to putting copyrighted material owned by others on the Net.

Internet Myth #4: It s okay to use copyrighted material in my Web site so long as no one has to pay to visit my Web site.

Unless your use of the copyrighted work is fair use (see Fair Use, later in this article), you need a license to copy and use the work in your website even if you won t be charging people to view your website. (You also need a public display license.)

Internet Myth #5: It s okay to make other people's copyrighted material available on my Web server so long as I don t charge people anything to get the material.
Copying and distributing copyrighted material without permission can be copyright infringement even if you don t charge for the copied material. Making material available for others to copy can be contributory infringement.

What about the "Fair Use" law?

Section 107 of the Copyright Law allows "fair use" of copyrighted materials:
"… the fair use of copyright work, including such use by reproduction in copies… for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… or research is not an infringement of copyright."

Determinations are made on a case-by- case basis by considering four factors:

* Factor #1: Purpose and character of use.
The courts are most likely to find fair use where the use is for noncommercial purposes, such as a book review.

* Factor #2: Nature of the copyrighted work.
The courts are most likely to find fair use where the copied work is a factual work rather than a creative one.

* Factor #3: Amount and substantiality of the portion used.
The courts are most likely to find fair use where what is used is a tiny amount of the protected work. If what is used is small in amount but substantial in terms of importance, a finding of fair use is unlikely.

* Factor #4: Effect on the potential market for or value of the protected work.
The courts are most likely to find fair use where the new work is not a substitute for the copyrighted work.

Educators have an advantage...

If your multimedia work serves traditional "fair use" purposes -- criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research -- you have a better chance of falling within the bounds of fair use than you do if your work is a sold to the public for entertainment purposes and for commercial gain.

Current laws were established before the Internet existed and assume teachers are using only a small portion of the materials in class, making only enough copies for their students.

Remember the portion limitations:

These guidelines apply to the total amount of material, in aggregate, from a single copyrighted work (in each alternative, it is the lesser of the two).

  • Motion media: 10% or 3 minutes
  • Text: 10% or 1000 words
  • Music, Lyrics, Music Video: 10% or 30 seconds
  • Numerical Data Sets: 10% or 2500 fields or cell entries
  • Illustrations and Photographs: 10% or 15 images in a collection; no more than 5 by a single artist or photographer.

Lawmakers still haven't determined how "fair use" would pertain to educational Web sites which allow a wider distribution.

A hot topic in the legislature right now pertains to H.R. 2281, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act enacted on October 28, 1998

"…an Internet access provider could be found liable of 'contributory infringement' for a user's copyright violation if the provider knew or should have known about it but did nothing to prevent it…."

"Section 403 requires that the Copyright Office consult with representatives of copyright owners, nonprofit educational institutions, and nonprofit libraries and archives, and thereafter submit to Congress recommendations on how to promote distance education through digital technologies, including interactive digital networks, while maintaining an appropriate balance between the rights of copyright owners and the interests of users."

Source: Copyright Office Study on Distance Education &endash; [Online] Available

I see, I use, I cite …
Citing Web Sites and Online Databases (From SHS Library)

Citation Worksheet for students (From SHS Library)

Using Modern Language Association (MLA) Format
brought to you by the Purdue University Online Writing Lab

Avoid the Copyright Police -- get permission
Templates from Midlink Magazine:

Landmarks for Schools, courtesy of David Warlick

Interactive "fill in the blank" permission generator. (for teachers) (for students)

Important links to copyright info...

Copyright and Fair Use Chart from Technology & Learning

ALA (American Library Association)
Monitor the copyright discussions and summaries from the American Library Association in Washington at:

Gary Becker's Copyright Law Resources for Educators and Librarians!

"a reference to meet the information needs of educators, librarians, trainers, media production staff and students."

Educators Guide to Copyright and Fair Use

United States Copyright Office (from the Library of Congress)

Includes a 18-page summary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of October, 1998

Consortium for Educational Technology for University Systems (CETUS) Fair Use Information

Copyright Crash Course
Could you pass the quiz?

CONFU: The Conference on Fair Use
-- from the US Patent and Trademark office

Duke University's Center for Study of Public Domain: "Bound by Law" comic book

Stanford University

Copyright and the "web"

The Creative Commons alternative:

Creative Commons provides tools for you to license your creative work! Visit the website at  to locate works that have been licensed for sharing. Watch this short video to learn more about Creative Commons:

Charlene Chausis
Adlai E. Stevenson High School
Lincolnshire, IL


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