January 13

Copyright and Fair Use Middle School Workshops

Copyright and Fair Use are tricky subjects for adults as much as for students.  These issues can be quite complex and confusing.  The point of today’s workshop was to simplify it a little bit and help students to navigate these issues.  As our students become more prolific creators of content with blogging, social media, and artworks (to name a few) they will need to understand what their rights are as a creator and what rights other creators have.  They also need to understand in what specific situations using someone else’s work is actually okay (believe it or not!)

We opened by listening to a song, Pachelbel’s Canon.

Our students of course thought it was the Maroon 5 song Memories.

I explained that by the end of today’s workshop, they would understand why Maroon 5 weren’t going to be sued or have to pay royalties on stealing that song.

This video created by Common Sense Media is a great tool for explaining some of these concepts in a simple way.

Students were then give a series of scenarios and had to decide if it was fair use of not.  Fair Use is the ability to use copyrighted work without permission in certain ways and in specific situations.  In teams, they decided if it was or wasn’t and gave it a thumbs up or thumbs down and explained their group answers.

There is a pretty common misconception that you aren’t allowed to use anyone else’s photos or music for ANY purpose, but this workshop helped to define what is and isn’t okay.  When using songs and images for classroom-only purposes (like slideshows and presentations) it is actually fair use.  If these were to be put online that’s where you run into trouble as you would then be publishing them as your own and potentially making money from them.  A good habits for students when using someone else’s work for a project would be to cite it in a bibliography page.

Other common examples of fair use are;

  • schoolwork/education (unpublished and/or not posted online)
  • criticism or commentary
  • news reporting
  • comedy/parody/memes
  • If something is public domain – over 70 years old

Though it is always helpful to encourage students to use their own photos, videos, and music for projects, this workshop helped students to understand the concept of fair use and the situations when  it IS okay to use the work of other creators.

And finally, in the case of Maroon 5, Pachelbel’s Canon in D rests squarely in the public domain as it is approximately 339 years old.