Copyright for teachers

Copyright: Definition

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright is "a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works." Under the law, the individual or entity that owns the copyright of a work has the following rights:

- Reproduction: Making copies
- Adaptation: Changing a work in some way
- Distribution: Giving the work to others
- Public Performance: Playing/performing a work in front of others
- Public Display:Displaying a work for others to view
- Digital Transmission of Sound Recordings: Capturing audio files on the internet
  and burning CDs/file sharing

Items in public domain

An item is in public domain when it is no longer protected by copyright because of the age of the work (created before January 21, 1923), or it did not meet copyright requirements to begin with. These items may be used freely without permission from the author.

What does copyright protect?

Copyrigh protects original works of authorship including literary works (including computer software and compilations), music, dramatic works, pantomimes, choreographic work, pictorial, graphic, and sculpture works (such as maps and blueprints), motion pictures and other audio/visual works, sound recordings, and architecture.

What cannot be copyrighted?

- Ideas or facts in the public domain.
- Words, names, slogans, or other short phrases
- Government works or works created by federal government employees as part of their
   official responsibility.


For more information about copyright, please review the video below.

Why is understanding copyright important for teachers?

Understanding copyright is very important for teachers because they are constantly faced with opportunities to uphold or violate copyright law. It is typically in a schoolĄ¯s policy manual to uphold all copyright laws and by violating them teachers could face serious legal consequences as well as termination of their job. It is important that teachers are aware of what constitutes fair use and abide by the rules set forth by their school system. For example, if a school system does not provide enough textbooks for students, a teacher is not allowed to make photocopies of the entire book, or even an entire chapter, to provide a copy for a student. In the same manner, a teacher is also not allowed to copy any reproducible materials, such as workbooks, to avoid the purchase of more materials. Copyright is not only about what one is not allowed to do. Fair use guidelines make many actions permissible without violating copyright law. Teachers are faced with more problems related to copyright now that technology use is so prominent in education. Teachers must be aware of using copyrighted images or music in digital projects they create as well as projects their students create. Teachers must teach their students how to abide by copyright laws and therefore should lead by example.

Copyright Related Resources for Teachers

  • Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ21.pdf
    This is a government document that outlines some of the basic legislative rulings regarding copyright and the reproduction of materials by educators. It strictly deals with making photocopies and phonorecords.
  • Copyright Website
    http://www.benedict.com/Visual/Visual.aspx
    This site is not related to education, but rather gives details on specific lawsuits over copyright and is broken down into categories such as movies, music, and Internet cases. There is also a section on copyright law as well as fair use guidelines. This site could be used in teaching students or colleagues about copyright and discussing the findings in each case.
  • Copyright Kids
    http://www.copyrightkids.org/
    This site breaks copyright down into simple explanations. It provides definitions, links, sample permission letters, a copyright quiz, and even a link to register your own work. Great for teaching copyright to elementary aged students.
  • The Copyright Site
    http://www.thecopyrightsite.org/
    This site is specifically for helping teachers understand copyright. There are scenarios for discussion or critical thinking with clickable links to see if it was a copyright violation. There are also debunked myths about copyright and teaching ideas.
  • Copyright for Teachers and School Libraries http://users.mhc.edu/facultystaff/awalter/Brim%20site/index.html
    This is a website that helps breakdown fair use privileges. A valuable aspect of this site is the video chapters explaining copyright questions.