As tech-savvy teachers
multimedia work into
their classroom, they
also face a thorny question: Who
owns the visual, audio, and
moving images they download
and pop into their presentations?
Get that answer wrong, and you
may get dinged with a hefty fine.
"I don't think most teachers
willingly ignore copyright
issues," says David Ensign, a
professor of law at the University
of Louisville, in Louisville,
Kentucky. "But I do think many
have the impression that any
use of material in education is
Fair use is a component of
U.S. copyright law that allows
limited use of copyrighted material
without obtaining written
permission, purchasing the
work, or paying the creator a
royalty. Typically, fair use provides
for the legal, nonlicensed
citation or incorporation of
copyrighted material in another
author's work, and applies when
they are used for such applications
as scholarship or review.
It's a concept with increasing
importance in the modern
classroom. Students weaned on
tech are demanding more in
terms of riveting class material.
are scouring online sources
looking for video, audio, snips,
clips, and Web sites they can
add to their presentation --
anything to capture and hold
their students' attention.
Seems simple, but there's
a catch. "Fair use in the educational
setting is defined more
broadly but does not encompass
all uses," warns Ensign.
Fair use in the classroom is
often dependent on the subject
matter of the content. Ensign says
a teacher may not be allowed to
show the film The Lion King to
the class simply because it was
raining and the kids were squirrelly.
It could be shown only if
the class were doing a study of
Disney films or were engaged in
the study of a related subject.
Ensign recommends that every
school and school district create
and enforce a copyright usage
policy that is very clear about
what is allowable for classroom
use. One easy out: linking. Ensign
says he doesn't paste copyrighted
material into his lessons
and course plans -- he links to it.
Commenting on a quoted passage
is also fair use, as blogs do.
Yet another approach is provided
by Smart Technologies, a
company that has teamed up
with centuries-old publisher
Cambridge University Press to
offer the Global Grid for Learning,
consisting of more than
a million pieces of copyright-cleared
These include copyright-cleared
images, video clips, audio files,
text documents, and learning
objects ready for teachers to incorporate
into their lessons.
Before dismissing these options,
educators should realize
that failure to honor copyrights
can cost them personally.
"Teachers and librarians don't
realize that although they're
acting on behalf of the school
and are not benefiting personally,"
Ensign warns, "it doesn't
mean they're not personally