Copyright and Educational Fair Use- Part One

Normally when people hear the word “copyright”, their mouths open and their eyes glaze over; however, with the changing landscape of digital documents and images and especially with technology that allows fast and easy sharing, now is the time to get up to date on what is legal and what is not. To start, let me begin with some basics.

Copyright acts as the intellectual property protection for the creators or owners of the idea or concept. Ideas and concepts can include text (documents, books), canvas (images—including electronic), and films. One misconception is that all copyrighted items have the copyright symbol on them; however, the law does not require copyright holders to affix the symbol nor do they have to register their work with the U.S. Copyright Office or pay a copyright fee. In addition, creators can copyright their work whether or not they publish it. Finally, most copyright law originated in the federal realm, which means that local, state, or county regulations do not apply and a person goes directly to the federal level for copyright law and regulations.

Copyright holders have exclusive rights to do the following with their works or to authorize others to do so:

  • make copies,
  • distribute the work,
  • display the work,
  • perform the work publicly,
  • and create other works based on the original works.

In addition, the copyright holders can charge a fee for others to utilize their works.

So how, you ask, can an educator use copyrighted works? Stay tuned for another blog next Monday addressing copyright interpretation in education.

(Adapted from Mimi O’Malley’s Copyright Law and School Policies)

Dr. Kelly Campbell, Associate Dean of Information Services at Columbia Theological Seminary

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