Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Topic: Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials

10-second review: Never are the rules for use of copyrighted materials very clear. However, use of copyrighted materials in the classroom, in curriculums and in students’ own work will probably be acceptable if the objectives for using them are clear, if their appropriateness to the objectives is clear and if the user has clearly attributed the sources.

Title: NCTE Guideline: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, Adopted by the NCTE Executive Committee, November 2008.

Comment: I just waded through eight pages of guidelines for the acceptable use of Copyrighted material in education. It’s like punching a pillow. You keep looking for hard and fast guidelines, but they are surrounded by the soft “probabilities” and “limitations.” My 10-second review above is my best summary of the guidelines as they apply to education, and I think should be comforting to any conscientious teacher who worries about fair use in using copyrighted materials.

But don’t take my word for it. Go to the NCTE Website,, and print you own copy. Here are some quotes that will further ease your mind:

“Myth: If I’m not making any money off it, it’s fair use…. ‘Non-commercial use’ can be a plus in fair use analysis, but its scope is hard to define. If educators or learners want to share their work only with a class (or another defined, closed group) they are in a favorable position.”

“Myth: Fair use could get me sued. That’s very, very unlikely. We don’t know of any lawsuit actually brought by an American media company against an educator over the use of media in the educational process. Before even considering a lawsuit, a copyright owner typically will take the cheap and easy step of sending a ‘cease and desist’ letter….”


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