Tips for understanding copyright rules

Amount: How much of the work are you using? If an educator uses a large portion of the work, it is likely less of a fair use case than if he or she uses a smaller portion. However, in some cases, using an entire work is considered fair use.

Effect on the market: What economic harm are you or aren’t you causing to the rights holder? Russell used a school workbook publisher as an example. If a teacher purchases one workbook and makes 50 copies for students, that negatively affects the workbook publisher, who depends on the sale of a large number of workbooks, and so is likely not considered fair use.

Various copyright code exceptions do apply to classroom and educator use. Section 108 allows libraries and archives to make copies for library users, interlibrary loan, replacement, and preservation. Section 109 allows owners of locally acquired copies the right to distribute that copy (library lending, used book stores, garage sales, etc.). Section 110 allows teachers to display or perform works in the face-to-face classroom and in the digital or distance education classroom via digital networks. Questions remain about how this applies to streaming media, however, especially after the AIME vs. UCLA case was dismissed.

Section 117 lets the owner of a software program make a back-up copy, and Section 121 allows for the creation of accessible copies for people with disabilities.

Russell urged librarians to communicate with teachers and students, and approach copyright issues with a look at what educators and students are allowed to do, as opposed to a look at what they are not allowed to do—presenting positives before negatives often makes people more willing to listen and learn, she said.

Laura Ascione

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