Copyright and 'Copyleft'

(link to copyleft: copyright-safe resources)

The Copyright Act of 1976 provided the structure for copyright laws. Original author or creator of the work is automatically assumed to have ownership of the work and exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute his/her work, whether this is stated anywhere or not. When using creative work of others, educators need to be aware of instances of illegal copying or using print and multimedia materials in acceptable ways, as well as use of copyrighted materials in online spaces created by teachers and learner. Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law defines Fair Use, which allows teachers to use copyrighted materials for non-commercial teaching purposes with four factors to be considered:

    1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit education purposes:
    2. The nature of the copyrighted work;
    3. The amount and sustainability 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.

There have been numerous attempts to quantify and specify what exactly a teacher can do when using copyrighted print and multimedia in the classroom, but individual cases are still complex and the interpretations vague. This has created a major obstacle and deterrent for teachers’ attempts to enrich their instruction with authentic materials and multimedia.

The uses of copyrighted materials on teacher and student pages also require permission and adherence to the copyright laws. On the positive note, the same laws also protect teachers and students when they post their original work on Web pages and other online hosting services. It is always a good idea to include a copyright statement with the published work, both printed and online.

More recently, creators of content on the Internet have been defining their work in terms of Creative Commons. In 2001, Creative Commons was founded as a non-profit corporation “dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright”. They provide free licenses for creators of content to allow you certain uses of their work with various levels of permissions, from all rights reserved to no rights reserved. This also means that you don’t need to contact the author for written permission because the use is clearly defined. You still need to give attribution – give credit to the author and use citations if appropriate.

The most recent development in this area is The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. Published in November 2008, this document was developed as a collaborative effort over ten meetings with 150 members of leading educational associations and coordinated by Media Education Lab, Temple University, Washington College of Law, American University and Center for Social Media, American University. Furthermore, funded by MacArthur Foundation, this document was review by a committee of legal scholars and lawyers experts in copyright and fair use.
To read the whole document and a view a video about the Code visit Center for Social Media Web site:

This Fair-use Guide Offers Copyright Shelter, E-school News,

The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education

Video about the Code of Best Media Education Lab at Temple University

Tech & Learning Magazine, The New Rules of Copyright By By Judy Salpeter, October 15, 2008

Tech & Learning Magazine, Hot Topic: Copyright & Ethics

Other Copyright Resources

Cyberbee Quiz

US Copyright Office

Copyright Quiz by Hall Davidson

Copyright Chart by Hall Davidson

The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use by Hall Davidson

Example of placing copyright-safe search box on a teacher's Web site (how to link)

Fair-Use: Overview and Meaning for Higher Education