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Rebekah Keller

EDUC 506

Daniel Cantrell

4 September 2010

Copyright and technology in the classroom

Copyright has been and will continue to be an issue in the classroom as we continue to

bring students a plethora of information, activities, assignments and sources. Throughout the

years the materials and concerns surrounding it have changed due to the addition of different

technology available as either sources or mediums for assignments. The internet has, in and of

itself added a lot to the copyright discussion. Why would it not, when you can access almost

anything at a touch of a button. Copyright specifically becomes important when teachers start

utilizing things such as blogs and wikis for projects and a means of discussion in the classroom.

These tools ask students to add things such as pictures and videos to their posts or contributions.

Today, this is where dilemmas for students and teachers begin. If we look at some of the

comments made about plagiarism in concerns to writings, essays or books, and transfer these

opinions over to the classroom we can identify some of the reasons why students are infringing

on copyright. It is also important to realize the vastness of the internet and the easy access we

have to copyrighted material. Some of the best places to start dealing with these issues that occur

are by evaluating your usage and material choice through things such as the “fair use” laws or

the creative commons license. From that point, you can see what some acceptable and

inacceptable uses might be with in the classroom. Different policies that schools might want to

add and enforce to keep the student away from infringing, also appear after being familiar with

the laws regarding copyright.

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A brief discussion on copyright will give insight into the rules and regulations teachers

should be using in their classrooms. One of the pitfalls to evaluating a piece of material you wish

to use is the fact that the creators do not have to register their piece for it to be copyrighted. It is a

protection that is automatically added “to any work or production immediately upon its

expression in any tangible medium”. Yes, you can go online to and register your

work, but just because you did not do that does not make their work unprotected. This law is to

protect the work and its creator as well as stipulating the access available for “fair use”

(Academic Senate, 2001, p. 13). The creator of the work maintains control of the right to

reproduce it, create imitative works along with publishing.

A thorough understanding of the “fair use” law is necessary when you start evaluating

the use of different works in your classroom.The definitions of “fair use” are found under the

Copyright Act of 1976. The section specifically states:

Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 106 and 106A, the fair use of copyrighted

work, including such use by reproduction in copies of phonorecords or by any other

means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting,

teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an

infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any

particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include:

1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial

nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as

a whole; and
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4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for value of the copyrighted work.

( Shelly, G.B. & Gunter, G. A. & Gunter, R. E., 2010, p. 488)

These are all the guidelines one is given when deciding what can and cannot be used. The

looseness of this act is why a lot of people also look to court cases for more guidance because

“even a brief analysis reveals that the Act leaves much room for ambiguity” (Academic Senate,

2001, p. 17). However, a lot of those end up being very particular and give another specific

restriction that does not help to better define what can or cannot be done. For example look at the

case Perfect 10 vs Google and Amazon and summarized on Eric Goldman’s blog (2007), a

professor in law at Santa Clara University of Law. Some people where hoping that this ruling

would help decide whether inline linking was acceptable without being copyright infringement,

but instead the ruling was “fact-specific” which did not help answer the question of acceptability

in other areas involving inline linking. The ruling appears to be applicable to inline linking only

associated with thumbnails and not the broad spectrum of manners of inline linking.

There were things added after the Copyright law in order to better define how a work is

protected and shelter the works from infringement, particularly with the advent of the internet.

The Berne Convention of 1886 gives protection to any works in all of the countries included in

the convention. It requires that they have a law that gives the “time limit of the author’s life plus

50 years; a provision for fair use of the copyrighted work; and the author’s moral rights to his/her

work” (Alexander &Baird, 2003, p. 5). After that, came the World Intellectual Property

Organization (WIPO) treaty of 1996 that added digital works and computer software to the

copyright law. These additiosn help users understand that even if something is from a different

country does not mean that it is excluded from your specific countries copyright laws. The next

big one was the TEACH act which gave specifications for distance learning. The restrictions are
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akin to the original copyright law: The material must be used with in mediated instructional

activities, limited in the portion of the materials used and the students are to be given restricted


Despite the ambiguity of the copyright law, there are different resources that help people

decipher what is legal and what is not. The Stanford University Library (2007) is one of those

places. They try to put a little more meat on the skeletal structure that is the copyright law. They

present “fair use” in two general senses and then break it down into two categories. The two

general points are using the work for a limited time or for a transformative purpose. This then

leads to the two specific categories of comment and criticism and parody. The former allows you

to use parts of the work in order to do things such as book reviews or summarizations. It should

be kept in mind that the public is supposed to benefit from this use. The latter is more applicable

to the idea of a transformative purpose because “Judges understand that by its nature, parody

demands some taking from the original work being parodied” (Stanford, 2007). Transformative

means you are taking a piece and changing a chunk of it before turning around and using it.

There are also other places that have created different copyright curriculums or resources

for educators. Some examples would be Peer 2 Peer University (P2PU), Electric Frontier

Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Social Media at American University. The last in that list

created a Code of Best practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy. It has given a little more meat to

the copyright law. However, this code is prefaced with the words “some circumstances” to make

sure people know that these pointers are not the law but by following these criteria you are not

infringing on copyright most of the time. It says that:

Educators can, under some circumstances:

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1. Make copies of newspaper articles, TV shows, and other copyrighted works and use

them and keep them for educational use.

2.create curriculum materials and scholarship with copyrighted materials embedded.

3. Share, sell and distribute curriculm materials with copyrighted materials embedded.

Learners can, under some circumstances:

4. Use copyrighted works in creating new material

5. Distribute their works digitally if they meet the transformativeness standard. (Park


It is always good to remember that even though different people are trying to help educators and

students better understand what their limitations are due to copyright, you should not rely on

these additions as you would the law. It is always good to go to the government site for the

copyright law,, to read and review your rights and responsibilities concerning

these things.

It is important to remember that in using part or an entirety of a copyrighted work under

the “fair use” law does not mean that credit should not be given to the creator (Academic Senate,

2001, p. 16). This can be thought of as a citation normally seen following a paper. However, new

technology and the internet have adapted these types of things to be applicable to the new

mediums, not to the exclusion of the original manner. Bloggers have created something referred

to as a hat tip. It can be found on blogs as HT or h/t as well as defined at dictionaries for

blogging terms such as This is their way of giving recognition to a source of

inspiration or a person/website that brings something to their attention.

Another, particularly technological way, of doing this is to provide the picture as an

inline link. If the picture is clicked on, the viewer will be directly taken to the original website,
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inline linked. It only appears to be on, say, your blog when it is owned and hosted by its original

website (Queensland government). The argument is that the picture was not downloaded as much

as brought in directly from the original page. However, there is no sound and specific rule that

this particular way of giving credit will not infringe on copyright laws due to the looseness of the

“fair use” law. .

The indefinable aspect of the copyright law can also be seen when perusing different

blogs. You will read different ones that have separate and opposite opinions on what is

acceptable and what is inacceptable. Scan through a few and you will find blogs ranging from

lawyers to professional bloggers to your average Joe and they continually flip from some things

being alright and others not. They go from being okay with putting something in your blog as

long as you inline link it to the correct website to It is not okay to inline link because it is not part

of the “fair use” law and infringes on the creators rights to their work.

The differing opinions goes so far as to be two different men involved in the law

disagreeing. Fred Von Lohmann (2007) an attorney for the Electric Frontier Foundation defends

inline linking and the embedding of videos on his blog because of the ruling on Perfect 10 vs.

Google and Amazon, previously mentioned. The user is not downloading or keeping the work on

their server, but linking to the original site. He follows this opinion up with two pieces of advice

even for inline linking. If the creator asks you to take it down you have no other choice but to do

so and check to make sure what you are linking to it not a photo or video that is infringing on

copyright laws already.

On the other side is Steve O’Donnell (2010) a lawyer who discusses more the

repercussions (fines or temporary shut down of your site) incurred when caught infringing on

someone’s copyrighted piece. However, he does say in a parenthetical comment that inline
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linking is worse then downloading the picture or video and then uploading it to the internet.

While he does not explain his reasoning, he does insist that you should ask permission for the use

of a work even if it is not registered with a copyright. He encourages you to be a conscientious

user of the sources and works available on the internet.

Another popular way that you can get a hold of copyrighted work for free besides under

“fair use” or by the user writing for permission, is by looking for things registered with a creative

commons license. By doing so, the creator is saying that people can use and distribute your work

as long as they give you credit for it. Getting this license is as easy as going to the “License your

work” page at Under the creative commons license there are different

levels of release that you can choose.

There are six different possibilities: Attribution, attribution share alike, attribution no

derivatives, attribution non-commercial, attribution non-commercial share alike and attribution

non-commercial no derivatives. The first is the most open for the users because all they have to

do is give you credit for the original creation. The second means that “all new works base don

yours will carry the same license” (About licenses). Attribution no derivatives means that your

work cannot be changed. It has to remain the same, but it is still free to be redistributed etc….

The non-commercial one, requires just that, do not use the creators work commercial whether it

is a derivative or not, but the derivative does not have to have the same license. The fifth one is

the same as the other non-commercial with the exception that people can now “translate, make

remixes, and produce new stories based on your work.” The creator’s last choice keeps the work

non-commercial and it cannot be changed in anyway. All of these options allow works to be

more available for whatever needs to be done.

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If the use of technology continues to expand in the classroom then there will always be a

need to expand the specifics of the copyright laws to meet the new sources. An example would

be the need to figure out the application of the copyright to different things on the internet. This

is necessary for the internet because of how easy it is to infringe on copyright laws due to the

easy access to so many things. Most people do not even realize it is infringing because how can

that be so when everything is so easily accessible. In order to fight the confusion, teachers and

citizens need to educate themselves on the matter because naivety, I am sure, is not an accepted

excuse for copyright infringement. However, people should be steered away from two other

extreme feelings that they are breaking the law by using any copyrighted works or that they

should stay away from them all together (Park, 2009).

Some of the issues caused by the internet are not a result of fear of theft, but a blatant

rejection of the extra step necessary to cite or ensure that you are not using something that is

copyright. Others have started arguing that some things, considered plagiarism and infringement

of copyright laws is a “representative of a different generation, one that freely mixes and matches

from the whirring flood of information across new and old media, to create something new”

(Kulish, 2010) This opinion comes from a young author that used parts, all the way up to a whole

page from another, older book in order to create her book that made it as No. 5 on the Spiegel’s

hardcover best seller list.

Even some professors are starting to define this generation for being at fault when it

comes to necessary citing of giving credit where credit is due. Ms. Blum an Anthropologist at

Conrnell University mentions that the issue comes from the digital student’s lack of desire for

the “slowness and deliberateness…at odds with their customary focus on speed and efficiency,

on completing one task as fast as possible so they can get on with the next one” (Rosen, 2009).
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She also claims that this generation is not ignorant of the necessary skills to cite and the

knowledge of when to cite, they just do not want to accept them.

Both of these articles are bringing up situations that have transpired with written works,

but both can be transferred over to the use of blogs, wikis, and web pages in the classroom for

assignments. If students think that their generation is to mix and meld things together with no

concerns for the creator’s rights then they are no different then the young author in Kulish’s

article. They would be more then happy to grab a picture off of a Google search and use it on

their online homework without citing, asking permission, or even considering the “fair use” law.

The idea of citing for papers being too time consuming, would also transfer over to the use of

photos or videos on their internet assignments. These situations result in purposeful rejection of

the copyright laws.

Schools need to decide on policies in order to combat both the blatant disregard for

copyright laws and the ignorant misuse that happens. These policies should be explicit and

understandable to the students while protecting them from the undefined nature of the “fair use”

laws. The policies should be re-evaluated each year due to growing concerns, court case

decisions, and the introduction of new technology. On top of keeping them up to date with the

current needs of the classroom, they also need to be readily accessible, through print, and even

pointed out to teachers, so there is less ambiguity in the classroom (Shelly, G.B. & Gunter, G. A.

& Gunter, R. E., 2010, p. 488). It is also a good idea to tell teachers and students that even if

something does not say it is copyright that they should assume that it is so that infringement on

the creators rights does not occur (p.489). Schools should write policies that require teachers to

check up on the linking the students are making on their internet assignment. It would also be
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beneficial to have some of these things as requirements, a part of the rubric. Students would have

to cite, paraphrase and properly give credit to the creators of the media they use.

A good practice to get in the habit of doing as a teacher is to send an e-mail to the creator

of the image or text you wish to use on a blog, wiki, or webpage (p.489). Not only will that

ensure you are not infringing on copyright laws, but you are also being a good role model,

through your actions, to the students. Another good policy to adopt would be to have the teachers

talk through the first assignment using the technology. This will give the teachers the opportunity

to talk through the criteria out loud.

With all of this said, I think it would be safe to say that an appropriate use in the

classroom would be encouraging your students to either ask permission before using videos and

photos in their assignments. As well as pointing them in the direction of places such as that will help them find appropriate media. An inappropriate use in the

classroom would be using any photos or videos that you happen to find on a Google image

source without giving credit to the creator or a link to the original site. In addition to that the

student or teacher did not think about whether what they were doing with the work would be

covered under the terms that define “fair use”. These two examples are of course only a few of

the appropriate and inappropriate ways of thinking about copyright in the classroom.

All of these things still only skim the surface of copyright. There are a multitude of court

cases that could be examined that would give more specific situations that are or are not okay.

Each type of media could be looked at; examples could be given about each individual media.

The core thing to understand is the bones of the situation. It is important to be familiar with

copyright, fair use, creative commons license, and some of the other additions to the copyright

law. It gives you a base to start from and then can move to other websites, colleges etc…that try
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to present other questions you can ask to see if you are infringing on someone’s copyright. A

Creative Commons License is a great option to consider if you want to get your work out, let

people know it was you, but also be able to protect it from illegal use. Works that have this type

of license are what you want to look for if you do not want to figure out if it is covered by “fair

use” or not. Teachers need to always be keeping up with copyright and how it applies to current

and new technologies and sharing the new information with coworker and students. Keep an eye

open for clarity on the inline linking. Remember that you will probably be fighting either a fear

of copyright infringement or a group of students that merely disregard the present rules and

guidelines available.
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Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, Sacramento (2001). Academic freedom,

privacy, copyright and fair use in a technological world. Retrieved August 30, 2010, from

ERIC database.

About license (n.d.). Creative Commons. Retrieved from http://creativecommons


Alexander, S. & Baird, D (2003, April). The wrinkle in your teaching: copyright, DMCA,

guidelines, and public domain. Mid-south instructional technology conference. Retrieved

August 30, 2010, from ERIC database.

Goldman, E. (2007, May 16) Ninth circuit opinion in perfect 10 v. google and amazon.

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Kulish, N. (2010, February 11). Author, 17, says it’s ‘mixing,’ not plagiarism. The New York

Times, A4 New York Edition. Retrieved September 1, 2010, from

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O’Donnell, S. (2010, January 4) How many copyrights doe your blog infringe? Retrieved from

Park, J. (2009, May 28). EFF teaches copyright, without an agenda. Creative commons.

Retrieved September 1, 2010 from

Park, J. (2008, November 11). Code of best practices in fair use for media literacy education.
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Queensland government (2010, April 13). Glossary. Queensland Government. Retrieved

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Rosen, C. (2009, April 16). It’s not theft, it’s pastiche. The Wall Street Journal, A13. Retrieved

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