A Teacher's Guide

Copyright, Fair Use, & Creative Commons

Misconception: Anything I find on the Internet is Public Domain....

The Internet has opened the world to communication and information. Global audiences await links, music, books, videos, games, and the like. You may believe that anything that is on the Internet if fair game! In this case, ignorance is not bliss, it does not make one exempt from compliance.

Copyright Law

Copyright Basics: Crash Course Intellectual Property 2

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. At its most general, it is literally “the right to copy” an original creation. In most cases, these rights are of limited duration. The symbol for copyright is ©, and in some jurisdictions may alternatively be written as either (c) or (C).” [Wikipedia: Copyright]

No Copyright, No problem? Hold on, copyright is automatic. As soon as it is captured in a fixed format (ex. written down, recorded), it is protected by copyright.

What is protected by copyright?

In fact, the list of works that are not copyright protected is surprisingly short. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, that list includes only:

  • works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression.
  • titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents.
  • ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices -- as distinguished from a description, an explanation, or an illustration.
  • works consisting entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship, such as standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources. (Education World)

Doctrine of Fair Use

Copyright, Exceptions, and Fair Use: Crash Course Intellectual Property #3

What is Fair Use?

  • You may use copyrighted material. “Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders - ex. commentary, parody, news reporting, scholarly review, education.
  • It provides for the legal, non-licensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author’s work under a four-factor balancing test:
  • 1) The purpose and character of the use - if it is to gain financially, probably not going to be considered fair use.
  • 2) the nature of the copyrighted work - is it factual or creative?
  • 3) The amount and substantiality - less used the better
  • 4) The effect on the market - if it could cause creator to lose money, probably not going to be considered fair use.
  • It is based on free speech rights provided by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. (Wikipedia: Fair Use)
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Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit corporation devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons licenses free of charge to the public. These licenses allow creators to communicate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of recipients or other creators. Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright, but are based upon it. The result is a low-overhead and low-cost copyright-management regime, profiting both copyright owners and licensees. Wikipedia uses one of these licenses. (Wikipedia: Creative Commons)

Creative Commons Images and Meanings

It's easier than you think - an example of Creative Commons licensing..

Below is a link to dig.cc.mixter. I've located a song audio recording named "Drops of H2O (The Filtered Water Treatment) by J. Lang. As you can see, it is a Creative Commons work with an attribution symbol on it. So, if I were to use this recording, I simply need to acknowledge its author.
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Drops of H2O (The Filtered Water Treatment) by J. Lang

Click on the link to listen to some great music!

So how does this apply to education?

  • We have a few more flexible rules, but still have rules!
  • Education falls under "Fair Use" where you can incorporate copyrighted material as long as it is cited and has been judged by the four-factor balancing test:
  1. The purpose and character of the use - ensure there is no financial gain
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work - factual material much easier to use
  3. The amount and substantiality - less used the better
  4. The effect on the market - don't cause the creator financial harm.

(Wikipedia: Fair Use)

Ex. 1 - Purchased Video

A video that was purchased in a store can usually be shown in a classroom when the video is tied to the curriculum being taught. Otherwise, showing a class full of students a video would be considered a “public performance” and would be against the law. (theedublogger.com)

Ex. 2 - YouTube, Video, WatchKnowLearn

You are free to embed any video from YouTube, Vimeo, WatchKnowLearn, etc. on your blog or website as long as it gives you the embed option.

That being said, teachers and students can’t necessarily use parts from videos on YouTube (or other sources) to make mashups or as part of another video. Be sure to have permission to use any video that you are cutting, making changes to, or adding to a project.


Ex. 3 - Text/Images

  • The following may be photocopied for education purposes:
    1. a single chapter from a book
    2. an excerpt from a work that combines language and illustrations, such as a children's book, not exceeding two pages or 10 percent of the work, whichever is less
    3. a poem of 250 words or less or up to 250 words of a longer poem
    4. an article, short story, or essay of 2,500 words or less, or excerpts of up to 1,000 words or 10 percent of a longer work, whichever is less; or
    5. a single chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, periodical, or newspaper.

    (education world)

    I hope that this has helped you to understand copyright, fair use, and Creative Commons!