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FRIT 7132

Policy Issues
Copyright Policies
Sarah K. Wiggins

It is so exciting to walk into schools these days and see students so engaged. The ACTIV boards are up

and running with flipcharts that display beautiful images, the computers are a buzz creating power points that

can include images, video and textbook excerpts and music, and the copy machines can produce copies at a

faster rate than ever before. It is certainly exciting, but it could possibly be illegal too. In our fast paced world of

education, teachers don't want to miss a beat, they want to give their students the newest information, and in

their haste, they may be overlooking the copyright laws that have been defined by our government. It is for this

reason; policies that address these issues should be a high priority in our local school systems.

Recently, while reviewing the policies of the media program for Forsyth County Schools, I realized that

the overall copyright policy is lacking. The current policy states

1. The System Media Services contact will be charged with keeping abreast of current copyright law,

regulations, and interpretations. This person is responsible for disseminating information to school

system employees through the System Media Committee so that school materials, employees, and

equipment will not be involved in the infringement of this law.

2. The school Media Specialists, through the Local School Media Committee, are charged with informing

school staff members of copyright regulations so that school materials, employees, and equipment will

not be involved in the infringement of this law. (Forsyth County Schools, 2007)

This policy provides coverage to the county stating that the employees should be informed of current copyright

issues, but it puts the sole responsibility for communicating the issue on the media specialists in the local school.

Having such a vague copyright policy could actually result in liability for the county. In a 2004 article published

by Education World, Nancy Willard, a former copyright attorney said that “School districts are liable for

copyright violations committed by their staff.” (Starr, 2004) With this being noted, it is crucial that a policy be

more clearly defined. Most teachers and staff have very little knowledge of current copyright laws. Teachers

were educated on such issues during their education courses in their college programs, but much has changed for

most educators. With the new technologies we employ and the current use of the Internet, it is more crucial than

ever to take these steps to implementing policy changes.

Such a policy needs to define what the Federal Copyright Laws govern. By explaining copyright laws in

a readable manner teachers can be informed. Just as importantly, parents and students can be informed. Nancy

Willard states “Both educators and their students need to be aware of the kinds of activities that risk copyright

infringement and they need to develop strategies to minimize that risk” in a 2004 article of Education World.

(Willard, 2002) Such policies need to be created to educate all of a school system's stakeholders. New on the Job

states that “the law applies differently to students and teachers, and both need to have some understanding of it.”

(Toor, Ruth; Weisburg, Hilda K., 176) The Hillsborough County Public Schools set a wonderful example for a

school system to follow. They have included an entire section about copyright topics in the Media Program

Handbook. They begin by defining the law in a language that can be understood. Next they state six board

policies in regards to the general laws of copyright. In order to keep the faculty abreast of the copyright laws,

they enlist the principal along with the media specialists. (Hillsborough County Public Schools Media Services,

2006) I feel this is a much more effective way to inform the staff compared to the policy as stated in the Forsyth

County Schools Media Program. With the constantly changing laws, these policies need to be connected to

current links that can help the stakeholders within a school system make informed decisions. Additionally,

schools should be equipped with references such as “Copyright Condensed”. This is a quick reference for

teachers who are concerned about copyright laws. (Heartland Area Education Agency 11, 1999) The policy

should state that such a reference be housed in the media center.

One aspect that needs to be specifically addressed in such a policy is the “Fair Use” guidelines that have

been built into the copyright laws. Carol Simpson states in her book Copyright for Schools that the purpose of

the fair use laws are so that “knowledge and scholarship might advance.” (Simpson, p.39) She goes on to state

that “Fair Use is the most misunderstood aspect of copyright law.” (Simpson, 39) Teachers often feel this law

negates all other copyright laws because they are in a school setting. Teachers should be better informed of the

guidelines by which they can establish how to determine if something falls within “fair use”.

A recent survey conducted at Chestatee Elementary showed that 100% of the participating teachers

admitted to copying workbooks, books, and/or images. When asked if they felt if this copying infringed on

copyright laws, 30% said “yes”, 10% said “no”, and 60% admitted that they were “not really clear on whether or

not it did or did not”. This is a clear example of the need to define what “Fair Use” is, and explain how it should

be used in the classroom setting. The Hillsborough County Schools Media Handbook is an excellent guide for

writing this into a policy. It clearly states the four criteria that should be used for determining if an item falls into

the “Fair Use” category. (Hillsborough County Public Schools Media Services, 2006) For further understanding

of this key issue, teachers can be directed to read the 2004 Education World article, “Is fair Use a License to

Steal?” by Linda Starr. She introduces questions that educators can ask concerning the piece of information they

are considering and how it relates to the four factors as defined in Section 107 of the Copyright Act. (Starr, Is

Fair Use a License to Steal? Part 2 of an Education World series on copyright and fair use, 2004)

Additionally, such a policy needs to devote a section to multimedia and technology. In Starr's article, she

quotes Nancy Willard in stating that the “area with the greatest potential for liability is the district's public Web

site.” (Starr, District Liability and teaching Responsibility Part 5: of an Educational World Series on copyright

and fair use, 2004) As technology advances, educators are being pushed to immerse our students in all forms of

technology. The Standards for the 21st Century Learner recently published by the American Association of

School Librarians guide students to being information literate. As part of these standards, the students are

expected to produce a final product. These products are encouraged to use a multitude of media. (AASL, 2008)

Without providing guidelines for our teachers to follow, we may be creating a generation that is susceptible to

liabilities they do not even know. Therefore, the policies on copyrighting need to be clearly defined with guides

for all stake holders to follow. Starr continues in her article “District Liability and Teaching Responsibility” by

recommending that districts create steps that would “limit their liability” in regards to websites and multimedia

projects. (Starr, District Liability and teaching Responsibility Part 5: of an Educational World Series on

copyright and fair use, 2004)

Forsyth County Schools do an excellent job of maintaining the highest level of technology within our

schools. The county has provided several ways to keep teachers, students, and parents informed of all activities.

On each school website there is a page called Clicks for the Classroom, this page could be an excellent link for

communicating current copyright policies. Teachers could be provided with links that they could use to

understand copyright better, as well as educational links that could educate our students. Another wonderful tool

that could be used to share information with students about copyrighting is

Through creating a solid policy that defines what is copyrighting, what is fair use, and the guidelines for

multimedia and technology, the stakeholders of Forsyth County Schools can be better informed. Additionally,

through keeping the Internet sites up to date and relevant, teacher, parents, and students can have their questions

answered immediately. By changing the current policy to reflect these new elements, it would take the sole

responsibility of communication off of the media center, and share it with all of the faculty and staff of the

school district. The end result would be creating a community of conscious and informed users of all forms of


AASL. (2008, September 17). AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner. Retrieved September 23,
2008, from American Association of School Librarians:

Forsyth County Schools. (2007, July). Administrative Procedures Media Programs. Retrieved
November 18, 2008, from eboard solutions :

Heartland Area Education Agency 11. (1999, August). Copyright Condensed. Retrieved November 18,
2008, from

Hillsborough County Public Schools Media Services. (2006, July). Media Handbook Division of
Information and Technology Library Media Services. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from HCPS
Media Handbook On Line:

Simpson, C. (2005). Copyright for Schools. Worthington: Linworth.

Starr, L. (2004). District Liability and teaching Responsibility Part 5: of an Educational World Series
on copyright and fair use. Retrieved November 18, 2008, from Education World:

Starr, L. (2004, December 17). Is Fair Use a License to Steal? Part 2 of an Education World series on
copyright and fair use. Retrieved November 20, 2008, from Education World:

Toor, Ruth; Weisburg, Hilda K. (2007). New On teh Job. Chicago: American Library Association.

Willard, N. (2002, June 28). Schools, the Internet, and Copyright Law. Retrieved November 20, 2008,
from Education World: