Copyright and Fair Use – Part 1 – What can I do?


Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

I have a confession. As a teacher, I have broken the law . . . on more than one occasion too! I am guilty but in my defense I simply didn’t know the law. Now, I didn’t invade someone’s privacy, cause bodily harm to another person or commit grand larceny.

No, I am talking about copyright infringement. I’ve used images, music and video without permission and I’m working to correct it. I didn’t do maliciously or even knowingly.

What was the problem? There is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion surrounding this area and rightfully so. It’s not so cut and dry and what you can do as a private citizen and what you can do as a teacher in the name of education are different.

Read on past the break to get a quick overview of what copyright is, what fair use is and quick PDF of what you can and cannot do in your classroom. For the record, I am getting most of my information and images below from the Electronic Frontier website on teaching copyright.

What is Copyright?


So as a teacher one might be asking “What’s left? What can I do?”

Copyright isn’t just a blanket of legalities that prohibit anything being done to someone else’s work. There are time limitations so Shakespeare and Charles Dickens are not covered by copyright because they are too old.

Well fear not, as a teacher you get a little lead way when it comes to copyright. This is known as Fair Use.

What is Fair Use?


These guidelines are vague and open to interpretation this is not an accident. I have known of people who have been told they are violating copyright and they have appealed to the person or institution and been granted permission. This happens quite often on YouTube.

Still a little confused. I have attached a quick guide that will give you some concrete advice. You can download the guide from or you can view it below. I’ve got it laminated and hanging in my room!

For more information visit Electronic Frontier’s copyright unit at

3 thoughts on “Copyright and Fair Use – Part 1 – What can I do?”

  1. Thank you Patrick, this is excellent information. I will be sharing this (and you post) with the teachers at my school. Like attribution, it is important that we work this into our digital learning so that we create awareness/heighten awareness of what it means to be a good digital citizen. Thanks again. Brilliant!

    1. Mark,
      Thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. I know our school has a long way to go to get everyone on board with this. Thanks for sharing and I will be posting where people can find royalty free images, sounds and images.

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