• Beth Powell

Fair Use & Copyright

Updated: Mar 29

Be cool & keep it legal.

Photographs, graphics, music, videos, paintings, books, and other items are protected by the U.S. copyright law. Creations are the property of the creators, and others, who would like to use them, are required to obtain permission for their use.

This is logical and fair, except when it comes to the institution of education. Educational exceptionalism is the premise that educators should be exempt from the copyright law because they are using the materials to educate the populous.
Asking every high school teacher who wanted to teach a novel study to obtain the author's permission before quoting directly from the book in their lessons is, at best, a cumbersome request. At worst, it short-changes our students, who will likely not receive the best education because our many schools are without the funding needed to obtain these approvals. In reality, teachers would simply avoid using copyrighted materials. Recognizing that, the U.S. Government included a Fair Use clause in the copyright law.

Fair Use


To be very clear, I am not an attorney and what follows is a common sense review. It is not a legal review. Your school has an attorney on retainer who can provide a legal review.


1. Did the teacher CHOOSE the resource? Teachers must choose the resource of their own free will, meaning administrators cannot direct teachers to use a resource and then claim Fair Use.


2. Does the teacher have TIME to obtain permission to use the resource? Go get permission if there's time to do so.


3. For what PURPOSE is the material being used? Uses like teaching, research, scholarship favor Fair Use while commercial for-profit activities and entertainment purposes do not favor Fair Use.


Important Note: Always give creators credit for their creations.


4. What is the NATURE of the resource? Published works that are factual or nonfiction and are important to the educational objectives favor Fair Use whereas unpublished, highly creative works (art, music, novels, plays, etc...) that are not important to educational objectives do not.


5. How MUCH of the resource needs to be used? Using small quantities (clips, excerpts) that support the educational objectives favor Fair Use while using a whole work does not.


6. To what EFFECT will the resource be used? If the teacher legally obtained a copy of the original work and their intended use has no material affect on the market, or potential market, for the copyrighted work Fair Use has a higher likelihood of being honored.


Important Note: Making a copyrighted work accessible online does not favor Fair Use.


Our creatives need to be protected and our students need to be taught using relevant materials. Sometimes, as teachers we find ourselves in a quandary wondering if we should use a resource. I lean on a Google Doc/Form checklist I created to keep me honest and I'm sharing it with you all here. Just click the image below and you should be taken to a page that asks you to make a copy. You need a Google account (gmail) to access the Google Drive where this document will be saved.









Read more about this topic by scanning the QR code or following the link below.



Baylor University Using Copyrighted Material.

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