FairUseCat2This week, I enjoyed leading a spirited discussion with a Georgia school district’s media personnel about the topic of copyright and fair use. I was interested to hear the questions these P-12 media specialists had regarding what can and cannot be done regarding copyright law — in other words, what is FAIR?


A few of the questions posed were:

  • Is it legal to show a movie for entertainment after school?
  • Can images be taken and altered using various photo tools to create a new image and then share online?
  • Can clip art and images be used in a yearbook and then sold to the public?
  • Is it legal to take very old VHS tapes and transfer to DVD format?
  • It’s the end of the school year and kids are restless; can we show a video for entertainment after lunch during the school day?
  • Can you show a video on “video night” and charge an entrance fee that covers refreshments?
  • If a school needs 5 copies of a textbook but doesn’t have the money to purchase any more, can the administration make 5 additional copies of the book?

We discussed extreme opinions of “experts” on the issue of how far an educator can go with fair use. Those opinions vary from sticking explicitly to the pre-determined guidelines (established by the very publishers who stand to gain from limited use) to expanding far beyond the guidelines to make your own fair use determination. Very different schools of thought, but both very important for P-12 educators to consider. It’s so easy to have someone tell you “This is exactly what you can do legally when using existing copyrighted work.” Actually, it’s much more difficult to think your way through the process as you consider the four factors of fair use. While many determinations about use of work are obvious and do not require a lot of thought about legality, some proposed uses are in the gray area where there is not a definite call.

Our session ended by sharing information about best practices when considering fair use. Tools and resources included:

My own personal weebly with copyright/fair use/creative commons links (It’s truly awesome! Check it out!!)

Creative Commons website, specifically the SEARCH feature

Google advanced image search filtered by license

Jamendo for music

Clip art sites

Fair Use Evaluator (from ALA)

Gary Becker – Copyright Law Information and Resources for Educators and Librarians

Rene Hobbs – Media Education Lab and author of Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning (2010)

Carol Simpson – Author/Consultant and author of Copyright for School : A Practical Guide (2010)

Now, enjoy the following very entertaining, professional, and LEGAL, video on copyright law…

A Fair(y) Use Video by Eric Faden, available under a Creative Commons-Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (CC BY NC SA) at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLGNVIF0AYU


(Fair Use Cat by Chat Doctorow (gruntzooki), available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (CC BY SA) at http://www.flickr.com/photos/inkninja/8119702305/)