Technology Integration

5-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators

In K-12 education, it’s a challenge to navigate the copyright and fair use waters. What can educators use? How can they use it? VideoAmy has collected some fun, engaging videos to help teachers and students understand the confusing subject.

December 2, 2015

I absolutely love it when teachers and students create, remix, and mash up media; it's a fantastic way to encourage deeper learning and media literacy. But one issue that complicates digital freedom of expression is copyright law. While many would argue that copyright law is outdated and badly in need of an overhaul, it's still critical that adults and kids alike have a basic understanding of what's legal and ethical while playing with other people's intellectual property. Here's a list of videos I collected to help you navigate the murky waters of copyright law in educational settings.

Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.

  1. Understanding "Fair Use" in a Digital World (06:14)

    This excellent video by Common Sense Media and Teaching Channel shows students evaluating video remixes during a lesson in fair use.

  2. Should "Happy Birthday" be Protected by Copyright? (07:29)

    I'm a PBS IdeaChannel fangirl, so I couldn't resist including host Mike Rugnetta's rapid-fire ruminations on the topic of copyright law. This one is a great discussion starter!

  3. YouTube Copyright Basics (05:42)

    YouTube commissioned this from comedic puppet duo Glove and Boots; it's chock full of useful information and helpful links. Despite the puppets, the language is not suitable for young kids -- you may want to preview.

  4. Day at School: Copyright and You (06:35)

    I'm a sucker for 1950s-style instructional filmstrip parodies, so I was tickled when I found this snarky one about copyright, made for teachers (not necessarily students!) -- and it actually has useful tips.

  5. Fair Use School: Response to YouTube's Copyright School Video (04:42)

    Lawyer Patrick McKay made this winning entry for Public Knowledge's contest to respond to YouTube's Copyright School video -- which is informative about what you can't do with copyrighted works, but falls short on what you can do under fair use.

  6. Copyright Education User Rights, Section 107 Music Video (03:11)

    This punk-ish music video takes a catchy look at some of the nuances of fair use, from media literacy activist and educator Renee Hobbs and the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island.

  7. A Fair(y) Use Tale (10:14)

    Using Disney footage to explain copyright? Yes! This brilliantly ironic remix video is by film/media studies professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University. A little long, and visual quality is not the highest, but worth a watch.

  8. Get Creative! (06:38)

    The surefire way to avoid copyright infringement in the classroom? Use materials licensed under Creative Commons (CC). This fun animation recounts the history of copyright law that inspired the CC system.

More Resources for Teaching Copyright and Fair Use

If you've watched even a few of the videos above, you'll understand that fair use and copyright are very complicated and nuanced issues; but getting familiar with them is an essential part of being a good digital citizen, and even more important if you and your students plan to make and share creative works, whether original or mashup (which I hope you will!). Check out my Five-Minute Film Fest on the best educational parodies from last year to get fun ideas and resources for remixes as classroom projects.

The good news is that there are lots of organizations dedicated to protecting freedom of expression and helping people understand their rights and responsibilities around copyright law; and even a few that specialize in helping educators get a handle on the issues and impart the right lessons to their students. Just a few of these are listed are below, I'd love to hear from you if you have favorite resources on this important topic!

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