Saturday, July 30, 2016

How Do We Start Teaching Students About Copyright?

Copyright can be very scary for many teachers, because of many unknowns about the topic. As educators, we may not always create our own content from scratch. If you think about it, our knowledge is a collective body of information that has been brought in by thousands of years of work put onto paper, into movies, and now into the digital world. It is almost impossible to create something entirely from scratch.

Because we are using information from others in the classroom daily, it’s important to teach and model for students appropriate use of all content in our classes. The purpose of copyright is not for owners of work to make a ton of money. According to the Copyright Act, the purpose of copyright is 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" (Crash Course, 2015). While that sounds like educators do not have permission to use work, we do, but we must be responsible and lead by example.

Fair use opens the doors for teachers to use copyrighted materials in a fair manner in the classroom. It gives teachers “conditional rights” (dschrimsher, 2010). For work to qualify for fair use, the four conditions must be met:
  1. The purpose and character of use must be considered (most educators qualify on this condition since the work is more than likely for non-profit).
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. How much of the work is being used?
  4. Does the use affect the market or value of the copyrighted work?
Are the resources that are being used in your classroom for lessons or for students being used in a transformative way?

What are some easy ways to start teaching students proper use of copyrighted materials?
  • Ask a librarian-the school librarian is trained for this exact topic and they LOVE to teach others about it! I have brought my biology classes into the library and let the librarian be the teacher on how to properly research for credible content as well as how to properly cite these works in their projects. A great starting point-you will probably learn something directly from the librarian too!
  • is an amazing tool to teach your students how to use works that already have permissions for use. Student can use this tool to search for images, music, and websites that have Creative Commons Licensing and then you can teach them how to provide proper citations on these works (to give credit because credit is due).
  • Cite your own work- when you create your lesson notes, provide citations and reference pages so your students know where you go the information. Expect them to do this on projects and teach them how to cite. This is something I've begun to do over the last few years. I've even trying to go back on previous works I have created to provide citations on those documents.
  • Curate information for your students-ultimately we want our students using credible resources. Providing students with the resources you want them to use is a great way to show them credible information (and can also save them time when they are researching). You can then use those resources to teach them how to give attribution.
Check out my Pinterest link under the "Educational Technology" tab for more resources on digital citizenship.


Crash Course (2015, April 30). Copyright Basics: Crash Course Intellectual Property 2 [Video file]. Retrieved        

dschrimsher (2010, February 7). Fair use photo story.wmv [Video file]. Retrieved from

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