Copyright in Education

Advances in digital technology and the Internet have given rise to issues in the educational realm regarding digital law. Digital law, one of the 9 elements of digital citizenship, deals with using technology ethically and lawfully. Plagiarism, copyright infringement and other misuses of intellectual property are unethical and against the law. Part of digital citizenship means adhering to copyright laws, knowing the laws of Fair Use, and what to do when using the intellectual property of others in educational situations.

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Copyright- Creative Commons- Fair Use- Public Domain” by Langwitches is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The U.S. Copyright law provides authors and creators protection over their original works in addition to ownership of exclusive rights.

Copyrightable Works

  • Literary works
  • Musical works
  • Dramatic works
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
  • Sound recordings
  • Architectural works

Exclusive Rights

  • Reproduction
  • Preparation of derivative works
  • Distribution
  • Public performance
  • Public display
  • Public performance of sound recordings

(Hirtle, Hudson, & Kenyon, 2009, p. 16, 68)

In addition to those basic components, copyright is comprised of many other guidelines, rules and exemptions. Luckily there are great resources like the manual written by Peter Hirtle, Emily Hudson, and Andrew Kenyon that does a great job of “laying down the law” and presenting the facts about copyright in a format that’s easy to digest. Using this manual can help you recognize instances of copyright infringement and determine when it’s fair use.

Internet Copyright Infringement
Source: Copyright Infringement: Myths vs Facts from Legal123.com.au

Some of the exemptions to copyright exist in the form of fair use. In certain cases, fair use does allow for limited use of copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright owner. A great resource, Fair Use: The Secrets No One Tells You, written by Gretchen McCord, clearly explains fair use and the factors that need to be considered in order to determine if using a particular work is fair use. Using these factors and careful analysis can help you determine fair use on a case by case basis.

The factors to consider are basically:

  • The purpose of the use. Is it for commercial or nonprofit educational purposes?
  • The nature of the copyrighted work. Is the work more factual in nature or more creative expression?
  • The amount of the work used in proportion to the work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use on the market value of the work.

I’ve discovered that determining fair use is not such an easy task because there are many factors to consider and the rules are not plain and clear. In my opinion it’s best to seek permission from the copyright owner in all cases if possible.

As an alternative to using copyrighted materials there is Creative Commons. Creative Commons allows you to share your own work or use the creative works of others under a creative common license. Each creative work can be used according to the type of creative commons license it’s covered under. This is an excellent resource for all types of works for use in a multitude of projects and other educational purposes.

BrickPress. (2014, Jun 4). Creative Commons License and how it helps us share digital content. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/HKfqoPYJdVc

I have to say that I’ve learned so much about copyright this week and haven’t really scratched the surface of all there is to know because it’s such a huge topic. In short, learning about copyright is the best way to ensure the ethical use of the Internet and digital technology as well as eliminate issues of copyright infringement and plagiarism.

Check out this Intellectual Property playlist from CrashCourse on YouTube to find out more about intellectual property, copyright and more.

Here is another video about Copyright Basics.


Hirtle, P. B., Hudson, E., & Kenyon, A. T. (2009). Copyright and cultural institutions: Guidelines for digitization for US libraries, archives, and museums. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Library Press, Forthcoming. Retrieved from https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/14142/Hirtle-Copyright_final_RGB_lowres-cover1.pdf?sequence=2

McCord, G. (2014) Fair use: The secrets no one tells you [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

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Hello! I am currently an eLearning Support Specialist at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. I just completed the Digital Learning and Leading program at Lamar to earn my M. Ed. degree. Thank you for visiting my site!

Posted in Digital Citizenship
One comment on “Copyright in Education
  1. […] and storing digital resources and it’s easily shareable. My resource topics include copyright, cyberbullying, and digital footprints. In addition, I created a short PowToon on digital […]

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