Fair Use in the Classroom
Fort Hays State University
Fair use in the classroom
Educators have the responsibility to manage their classroom in such a way that is academically beneficial for each of their students. They make use of various tactics, teaching methods, and materials in order to foster an environment of effective learning. Each of these, in addition to countless other factors, plays a vital role in the success of the student as well as the teacher. The focus of this essay, however, will be on the materials used. Teachers use a plethora of supplemental materials when it comes to instruction. These can include pictures, PowerPoints, news articles, podcasts, documentaries, films and many other forms of print and media sources. Some classes have even gone so far as to not only implement these things but to replace the textbook completely. These materials are not always immediately or freely available, though, due to copyright laws. In fact, only 15 percent of books in all the libraries in the world are part of the public domain, that is, openly available to the public for any use (Lyons, 2010). As for the remainder, procedures must be followed so to properly follow copyright laws. Important exceptions to copyright laws for educators are fair use and the TEACH act. This essay will concentrate on exploring fair and appropriate use and determining some of the restrictions that educators face when choosing resources to use in the classroom including the implications copyright laws have on potential learning tools.
To begin, what is fair use and what is its role education? Copyrighted material is far from uncommon in the education world. This is due, in part, to the wide range of resources that are eligible for copyright. For a work to be protected by copyright laws, it must be original and have a certain extent of creativity, but can be expressed in any tangible physical or digital medium (Greenhow, 2007). Because this nearly covers any potential instructional material, it seems implausible to gain permission for its everyday use. This is where fair use comes in. This is a way to use copyrighted material without gaining explicit permission from the author. Unfortunately, “there is no all-encompassing test to determine what constitutes 'fair use'. Every case should be treated uniquely (Woolsey, 2005)." Instead, there are four principles that must be considered in order to determine whether the use of a work falls into the domain of fair use practices. These are: the purpose and character of use (in this case it would be educational), the nature of the work being used, the amount used in proportion to the whole, and the potential effect the use will have on the overall market value (U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §107).
Because these factors are not clearly laid out rules with all the possible listed examples, it is easy to see why fair use often has a grey area. It relies on the good faith of those using the...