Coping with Copyright

This week has filled my mind with more ideas and terms and things to think about than my mind wants to absorb. I’ve wondered: Where do I start? How do I teach what I don’t understand? Am I breaking a copyright law? What are the copyright laws I need to comply to? How do I make sense of all I’ve read? Who do I go to for help?

One of the websites I looked that, New Media Literacies helped with my understanding of what is this participatory culture where we will “create, circulate, collaborate and connect”. They also discuss the new media literacies that include: play, perform, simulation, appropriation, multi-tasking, distributed cognition, collective intelligence, judgement, transmedia navigation, networking, negotiation and visualization. A rather long article about the same participatory culture can be found here. In the article there are examples of how these new literacies have and are being taught in schools and ideas of how to use them. These two sites along with various others have led me to think about what do I need to do to help students and other teachers understand so they can be part of this participatory culture.

Now, you may wondered what these sites have to do with copyright and all my questions. Students today are creating work/projects, sometimes through collaboration, many times circulating that work and often connecting to others through that work/project via the web. What do those students know about copyright? When should we begin teaching about copyright? I had read Zoe’s blog about copyright and realized that even kindergarteners can understand and need to understand about copyright. When our technology facilitator was working with our 5th graders on creating an avatar for their blogs she had several conversations about copyright and where they could or couldn’t get images from.Even after telling them not to start at google images, some students asked if they printed off an image from google images and she scanned it, would that be okay. They really didn’t get what copyright is about. We need to begin with our youngest students and continue the conversations each year.

A mnemonic that I found fun and useful is:Harry Potter Can Fly!

  • Homegrown
  • Public domain
  • Creative commons
  • Fair use

I first saw this at this website and then went searching for the source. Adding a photo from Creative commons has been a big step for me as a blogger. All my previous photos were photos I had taken and were in my personal photo library. Feeling somewhat successful, the photo has appeared and not just the url or inbedded code has given me a sense of accomplishment. I had originally thought about starting with a photo of the copyright mark. I had looked on flickr and found one to use and then began reading the comments under it that led me to a blog where the creator of the photo commented on the blog. I know there are many learning communities that can be opened up as I learn more and explore more even about topics that feel a bit overwhelming.

Copyright Symbols

Photos by:

Wesley Fryers photostream –

Mikeblogs -


6 thoughts on “Coping with Copyright

  1. Jean, it is important to teach students about copyright. But it is also good to remember Fair Use. We as educators are protected under Fair Use. The copyright laws are somewhat ambiguous regarding fair use. Publishers would say that there is very little that we as educators can do. However, that is not true. The courts have allowed schools, teachers, and other educators use copyrighted material in instruction. Just as publishers will push in one direction. We as educators need to push in the other direction.
    On the other hand we are trying to teach our students how to live in the real world; how to live in the world outside of school. If we always hide behind fair use than they will never learn how to respect copyrights. If they see us seem to disregard copyrights because we are depending on fair use then when they move out of education then they can get stuck. I don’t know the right age to begin this but they need it before they start downloading music and movies illegally.

  2. Dan, Thank you for your comments. I know as educators we are protected under Fair Use. But since much of what our students are doing come middle school and high school may not be “educational” isn’t it better to begin at a young age to respect others’ intellectual property and creations just as we want our own work to be respected.
    I was skimping a rather long article – that talks about so many things that have been “borrowed” and often without giving due credit but then there are organizations that have “borrowed” but will not allow any of their work to be shared. Some of the laws regarding copyright may need to be changed in the future or maybe the next generation will more readily collaborate and not claim work as their own. We want our students to be “discerning thinkers” who solve problems. Maybe the questions should be addressed to the students. “If you write a song, or a poem or take a photo and post it on Facebook/MySpace/Flickr/YouTube what would you do if someone copied it and posted it as their own?” “What if the person used it and made money from your work?” Are we posing those questions to the students rather than “You shouldn’t watch illegally downloaded movies or listen to the music.”
    We need to begin when they are young, like the book that was so popular several years ago was titled, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” by Robert Fulghum.

  3. Teaching students about fair use is important, and it’s vital we learn about these issues so we can confront them head on with students. I’m so glad you found the Harry Potter copyright mnemonic! That’s used in the chapter on Copyright and Fair use in my ebook, “Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing.” The entire chapter on copyright is available free online:

  4. Wesley, Thank you for the comment and for the free resource. I will be doing some more reading on fair use and hopefully more of your blog posts.

  5. You’ve found some great resources (that you’ve linked to in this post), and it’s great that you’re actively thinking about copyright and what it means for your students. An important conversation has come up in some of the comments that you’ve received already – the idea of educators having more flexibility under the guise of ‘fair use’. We’ll talk more about this in class, but at the end of the day, when it comes to using anything that is someone else’s work, for whatever purpose, the most important thing is to acknowledge and clearly credit the source. Anything less is plagiarism.

  6. Well obviously, I still have a lot to learn, since my next post had a photo that was not under Creative Commons. I have now figured out where to look on a flickr page and what to look for. I did change the photo, although I also considered contacting the photographer of the first one, maybe next time and I may still contact the person to let them know and ask if I can use it in the future. I liked the photo!

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