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Copyright Laws - Using Other People's Work

Copyright Laws protect intellectual property from illegal copies being made and used in an illegal manner. There are provisions that allow educators to use copyrighted materials in the classroom with limited use. When used effectively, educators can enhance the learning experience by allowing students to view material they may otherwise not have access to through Fair Use. The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act addresses the use and storage of digital copies in the classroom.

Through Fair Use (U.S. Copyright Office, n.d), teachers may show portions of videos, music, and articles to their students as long as it has an instructional purpose. There are four guidelines that govern fair use, the purpose, nature, and amount of the use and the effect on fair market. Is the material being used for non-profit educational use? What is the nature of the use, is the material being used to add new meaning? How much of the material is being used, and will the use of this take away from the sales? Make sure you are using only the portion of the material that is pertinent and you are not just watching the movie to kill time.

If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then you can use the copyrighted material in your classroom. That does not mean that you can then upload the materials to a website that anyone can view. The fair use originally covered face-to-face class settings, therefore the TEACH Act was created to cover distance learning and non-traditional education settings (Copyright Clearance Center, 2011). With distance learning, delivering the material to the learner is more challenging. Controlling the material is easier in a traditional classroom setting because the teacher can collect the printed material, turn the music or video on and off at the appointed times. That control becomes more difficult in a distance/online course, how is the material going to be stored and how are you able to limit the viewing. The TEACH Act allows for the online storage of materials used in a distance learning environment but educators must ensure the ability to view the class materials is limited to enrolled students.

Through the Fair Use and the TEACH Act, educators are able to encourage students to analyze literary works, compare different versions of films, and experience other learning experiences they would not have been able to do without the internet and these acts. These acts also help protect students when they create material in the classroom. Any work created by students is also protected under the copyright laws, which means teachers cannot share or post their work without student and parent (if they are minors) permission. Something that surprised me was that the creation of tests and other material while employed with a school does not belong to me. I used to think that I made it, it’s mine; however, this is considered works for hire meaning the copyright belongs to the school district.

A Creative Commons (CC) License is a great way to share your work with the world ("Licensing types - Creative Commons", n.d.). There are four different parts of the CC license; attribution, non-commercial, share alike, and no-derivative. Attribution is where you require to give credit to the creator when using the material. Non-commercial means that it can be used as long as you are not trying to sell it or make money off the material. Share-alike allows others to use, share, and distribute the original or modifications using the same share-alike label. No-derivative lets people know they may not change your work without permission first. I personally have an attribution, non-commercial, and share-alike CC on my site. Once I begin creating outside of my school and work field, I will include the no-derivative portion to my CC license.


Copyright Clearance Center (2011). The TEACH act. Retrieved from

Licensing types - Creative commons. Retrieved from

U.S. Copyright Office. (n.d.). More Information on Fair Use. Retrieved from

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