Copyright Guidelines for Teachers

    U.S. Copyright law is meant to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries" (United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8). Copyright law does this by protecting a copyright holder's rights to control reproduction, adaptation, distribution, public performance, public display, and digital transmission of sound recordings (Simpson, 2010). How copyright law affects those of us in schools isn't always straightforward though. Below are a list of resources that can help you understand copyright basics, public domain, fair use, and Creative Commons.

    Copyright Basics

    In addition to the online resources linked above, the following books are also useful copyright resources.

    Public Domain

    Materials in the public domain are not protected by copyright. If a material is in the public domain, you may reproduce, adapt, distribute, publicly perform, publicly display, or digitally transmit the work.

    Below are some sites with resources that are in the public domain and free for you to use:

    • OpenClipArt - This site contains clip art that has been released to the public domain.
    • Project Gutenberg - This site contains free, public domain e-books including many classics.
    • Public Domain Review - Collections of images, books, films, essays, and audio recordings, all in the public domain.

      Fair Use

      What about fair use? One thing to keep in mind about fair use is that it is not a right, it is a defense that can be used in court if you're charged with copyright infringement, and the burden of proving fair use falls to you.
      Carol Simpson's Copyright for Schools and Renee Hobbs's Copyright Clarity (mentioned above) provide excellent overviews of fair use and how it pertains to various uses of copyrighted material in schools. Below are some general resources that can also help you make fair use evaluations.
      • User Rights (video) - This music video gives a fun, simple overview of what fair use is and what it means for you.  Great for teachers and students!
      • Fair Use Checklist - This website has a useful checklist tool that allows you to compare what factors of your desired intellectual property use favor fair use and which ones oppose fair use so that you can make an informed decision.
      • Fair Use Evaluator - This online tool helps you make a fair use evaluation and allows you to print out a timestamped PDF with the results of your evaluation to keep for your records.
      • Fair Use - Center for Social Media - This site contains information about fair use best practices for documentary filmmaking, media literacy education, and online video. These best practices are especially useful if you create videos for instructional use or have students create video projects.
      • Tales from the Public Domain - downloadable comic book

      Creative Commons

      "Creative Commons licenses provide simple, standardized alternatives to the 'all rights reserved' paradigm of traditional copyright" (http://creativecommons.org/). If you want to use digital media and can't find what you need in the public domain and don't want to deal with permissions or fair use, digital media with Creative Commons licenses can be a good alternative. If you're interested in learning more about Creative Commons or want to find Creative Commons-licensed media, the below resources can help.
      • Flickr: The Commons - "The Commons" on Flickr contains images from various cultural institutions with no known copyright restrictions. Participating institutions include the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the Library of Virginia, and many more.
      • Flickr Creative Commons Search - Flickr allows users to use their Advanced Search function to search for images with Creative Commons licenses.
      • Wikimedia Commons - All media on the Wikimedia Commons site is either in the public domain or has a license that allows for free use so long as the license terms are upheld (Creative Commons or GNU Free Documentation License).
      • ccMixter - ccMixter contains Creative Commons licensed music.
      • Free Music Archive - Creative Commons licensed music in a variety of genres. 
      • The Freesound Project - The Freesound Project contains Creative Commons licensed audio.

        Copyright-Safe Resources

      • VideoBlocks and AudioBlocks are great sources of copyright-safe video clips and effects as well as audio clips. VideoBlocks and AudioBlocks are only accessible at school, not from home.