School Library Media and Digital Citizenship Consultant, NCDPI, DTL Division

  • I use a password protected learning management system for my classes, do I still have to consider copyright and fair use? Copyright protection still applies to materials in a password protected environment like an LMS. Typically when you place a file in a LMS, you are making a copy of that file. Placing it in a password protected environment may favor fair use more than placing it on the open web; however, it does not negate copyright. When you use someone else's work for your instruction, you should conduct a fair use analysis. Consider analyzing your intended use with Columbia's Fair Use Checklist.

  • May I use images of Google's logos in a presentation that I'm posting online to teach my students about Google apps? Since trademarks are representations of a company, businesses take their use very seriously. Trademarked branding is protected by intellectual property laws. Many companies provide permissions information on their websites. Here are a two examples: Google Microsoft

  • Can I record myself reading a book aloud and post it on my social media page? Storytelling/reading books aloud in classrooms favors fair use because it's instructional, non-profit, involves commentary, etc. However, you change the scenario by videotaping it and posting it online. Reading a book aloud (esp. in its entirety) and posting that online may be considered public performance and/or distribution which may infringe on copyright. Consider getting permission from the copyright holder or using books in the public domain and/or books licensed for your planned use.

  • Do "lip dubs" violate copyright? Parodies, mash-ups, or transformations of copyrighted materials may be considered fair use. However, the question to ask is: Does a "lip dub" constitute a parody, mash-up, or transformation? If the "lip dub" is just lip-syncing, is that really transformative? If the use is not transformative, consider alternatives such as using royalty free/appropriately licensed music from Creative Commons, getting permission to use the desired music, or obtaining the rights to use the desired music. For more on performance licensing, see some of the commonly used licensing services here: Music-ASCAP, BMI

  • Do I need permission to link to a website in a presentation or on my own website? Requesting permission to link to a web-based resource is not required bycopyright-850371_1280.jpg law but is considered a courtesy. For more on linking, see Digital Media Law Project.

  • A teacher at my school wants to show the Disney film "A Bug's Life." Can s/he show the whole movie or just clips? Using a curriculum related movie (clips or in its entirety) with face to face instruction, in a nonprofit school, is not a copyright infringement (as long as the movie was legally obtained). See section 110 (1) copyright exemption

  • Can I download a YouTube video to use in the classroom? Downloading a YouTube video may violate the YouTube Terms of Service, which you implicitly accept by using the site (see 5B). Terms of Service Agreements typically supersede Fair Use.

  • Can I use movies from streaming services like Netflix or play music from streaming services like Pandora in my classroom? Like the YouTube question above, this is a User Agreement/Terms of Service issue. Your use of these services should comply with the User Agreement/Terms of Service which often specify personal use only (Netflix, see 6B; Pandora, see 6). Always check the User Agreement/Terms of Service of the service provider in question. User Agreement/Terms of Service Agreements typically supersede Fair Use. Consider contacting the company and seeking permission for your planned use.

  • Can we watch a rented (or borrowed) video in the classroom? Yes, if the movie is legally obtained, curriculum related, involves face to face instruction, and the classroom is in a nonprofit school. See section 110 (1) copyright exemption

  • Can we watch a rented (or borrowed) video after school? After-school programs, entertainment events, reward activities, etc. are not covered under the curriculum stipulation of the video guidelines; therefore, it is not acceptable to show a video under these circumstances unless a performance rights contract has been purchased. For more on performance licensing see some of the commonly used licensing services here: Music-ASCAP, BMI; Video: Movie Licensing USA, Criterion Pictures, Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (Note: These services are not necessary for using music and showing videos in the classroom that comply with Fair Use or Section 110 (1) copyright exemption.)

  • Can we tape a program from TV and use it in the classroom? Several considerations affect this scenario: 1) Only over-the-air broadcasts are covered by fair use guidelines - satellite and cable programming is off limits. 2) You must use the program within a reasonable period of time, and you can't keep it more than 10 days. 3) The program must be used in direct support of the curriculum. School systems have been sued for violating these guidelines.

  • We have a senior slideshow that a student made and our principal wants me to make copies and sell them. The slideshow includes popular music playing in the background. Would this violate copyright? There are a variety of issues to consider for this question. I'll address several in this response. Because this slideshow is not curriculum related, does not involve classroom instruction, etc. educational fair use does not apply; therefore, the use of music would require permission or appropriate licensing for this use. Another issue to consider is parental permission from students included in this slideshow. Factoring in monetary gain to the equation also adds complexities to this scenario. In instances such as these, I recommend analyzing your intended use with Columbia's Fair Use Checklist.

  • Can I make copies of an audiobook for multiple iPods in my classroom? Not unless your purchase agreement permits you to do so. Apple, for example, permits iTunes downloads to be used on five authorized devices.

  • Can we broadcast videos over the school video network? As long as the video is not converted for use on a digital video server, it may be broadcast under fair use guidelines. Among other stipulations, this requires that the video be shown only in classrooms where it is directly related to the standard course of study being taught at the time. The manager of the video distribution system should keep records of both the provenance of the video and the lesson plans in use at the time of viewing.

  • A new student was added to the choir. Can we make a copy of the sheet music for her? You could make an emergency copy, assuming that you have placed an order for a legal copy.

  • Can we use a popular music recording as background for a Powerpoint presentation? Assuming that the Powerpoint is curriculum-related, common guidelines state that up to 30 seconds of music may be included. In addition, common guidelines advise that the clip not exceed 10% of the musical work. (Be aware that Fair Use Guidelines are commonly used to guide one's use of resources, but they are not part of copyright law.)

  • Can I make copies of a short story/poem/magazine article to use with my class? Single copies: Teachers may make a single copy of an article, book chapter, short story, newspaper article, etc., and share it with the class verbally. This qualifies under the “spontaneity” concept of fair use; thus, the copy may be retained indefinitely, but may not be used in the classroom from year to year. Classroom sets: Per common fair use guidelines, sets of copies for classroom use (one per student) may be made as long as the story or article is less than 2500 words, (250 words for a poem) and copyright information is included on the copies. For longer works (plays, novels, etc.) only 1000 words may be used. Only two pages of a picture book may be copied. As always, the spontaneity guideline requires that the work be used within a short time span and not used again. (Be aware that Fair Use Guidelines are commonly used to guide one's use of resources, but they are not part of copyright law).







Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only so that you can learn more about copyright and fair use. It is not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Please consult a lawyer if you want legal advice.