Copyright Basics

After reading the article, Copyright 101 by Carol Simpson, I now have a better understanding of the legality of copyright. As a future educator it is extremely important to understand copyright laws and how not to get in trouble for them. Often teachers ignore copyright laws in order to provide materials for their students, which has become a big issue for both the teachers and the school systems. However, many teachers feel forced to take shortcuts through these laws because they are not given the proper resources in order to give their students the best education. This problem has become very serious in the most recent decade, especially with the rapid growth in technology. It is making it easier to copy materials and use, without people even realizing that they are breaking the law. It is important to learn the copyright laws before becoming a teacher, so that you do not make a mistake when making lesson plans.

Copyright laws are not something to mess with. Copyright infringement can have fines up to $150,000, which is basically three years of a teachers salary. To prevent copyright infringement, one needs to learn what copyright even means. Copyright laws are laws that protect authors from having their published work stolen. This means anything that is published falls under the copyright laws, even materials on the internet. The term published, in this case, is anything that has been written on paper, recorded, painted and so on. An exception to copyright are facts. Facts cannot be copyrighted, however the words used to express that fact can. It is also important to remember that even if the copyright symbol is not shown, the material is still protected by copyright. If the author dies, this does not mean their work is up for grabs; copyright laws protect the authors work up to 70 years after their passing.

When people hear the term copyright, usually negative thoughts arise. However, copyright  laws are in existence in order to protect authors works and were designed to be seen as positive. Due to the fact that copyright can restrict teachers use and ability to teach, there has been some strict exemptions put in place, called fair use. Fair use allows teachers to use some materials for educational purpose only. Even though teachers are allowed this exemption, it still has really strict guidelines. Teachers can use the fair use analysis to distinguish whether or not they are within the fair use guidelines. The fair use analysis are a series of questions that help determine if the use of the material is strictly being used for educational purposes.

The first question is: Are the materials being used only in a non-profit educational institution and not for commercial use?

The second question is: What is the nature of the work being copied?

The third question is: How much of the material is being copied?

The fourth question is: Are you depriving the author of profit or harming the material in anyway?

Copyright laws are complicated and ugly, however it is extremely important that teachers understand the basics of copyright and the fair use analysis.


One thought on “Copyright Basics

  1. kayla92963 says:

    I agree with you that a lot of the times, teachers do not have the resources to provide things for their students, so often times they just ignore the copyright laws. Also, I agree that teachers do not know the laws as well, and that that needs to be changed because copyright is actually very serious. Your questions at the end are really helpful for determining whether or not something is copyrighted, and I agree that as a future educator I need to keep these things in mind.


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