How Can Teachers and Students Responsibly Use Web Resources?
How much do you know about acceptable use of Web resources? For example, is it legal…
- To use images from the Web in a PowerPoint presentation in your class?
- To use music you've downloaded and paid for in a presentation to parents?
- For your students to publish presentations on the Web with downloaded images and music?
- For you to copy material from a website for your students to read in class?
Let's see how you did.
- Maybe, Maybe Not! If you do not have time to seek permission to use the images, and you plan to use them only one time, it is legal and falls under the fair use aspect of copyright law. However, if you plan to use that PowerPoint several times, you would be violating copyright statutes.
- No! A presentation to parents is a public event, so you need permission from the copyright holder.
- No! Publishing to the Web makes the presentation a public event, and therefore, you must have permission from the copyright holder.
- Maybe, Maybe Not! It depends on how long the material is, when it was published, and whether it falls under fair use. Material published before 1922 often is in the public domain, which means it can be reproduced freely. However, sometimes a copyright does not expire until 70 years after the author has died.
The Complex Basics
Teaching students to use others' works legally and ethically has always been a challenge. But 20 or 30 years ago, it simply entailed teaching students to take notes using their own words, use footnotes for direct quotes, and provide a correctly formatted bibliography for all resources used.
Today, with text, images, and audio files just a click away for anyone with an Internet connection, the issues are much more complex. Students can easily combine all those files to create a totally new product (often called a mash-up or mashing). Often, these mash-ups do not adhere to copyright law—and just as often, our students don't realize they are breaking the law (or they don't care).
If we expect students to understand and respect copyright law, fair use, and the concept of public domain, we must teach them about these concepts and model ethical use of materials in our own classrooms.
Several sites provide simple overviews of copyright and fair use policies:
The Center for Social Media at American University (http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/fair-use) also has a comprehensive website dedicated to copyright and fair use policies. The site includes teaching materials and Fair Use Question of the Month.
Introducing Creative Commons
Let's be honest, the big question for teachers and students is: "How can I find images, text, and audio files that I can use legally?"
Great news! Creative Commons (http://creativecommons.org/) created a licensing process for people to copyright their original work while giving others permission to use it. These licenses are used by a variety of organizations and are recognized all over the world.
Teach your students how to search for appropriately licensed Creative Commons images and audio files to avoid breaking copyright laws. Watch these videos to learn about Creative Commons—some restrictions do apply:
Don't forget to check with your school librarian or media specialist—your local expert on all things related to copyright rules, including Creative Commons! My special thanks go to Maine Learning Technology Initiative members Teri Caouette and Barbara Greenstone for clarifying copyright and fair use for me, and to Tim Hart for the MLTI webcast cited above.
Jill Spencer is a teacher, consultant, and senior partner in Learning Capacity Unlimited, and author of
Teaming Rocks, published by AMLE. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2012 Association for Middle Level Education