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Copyrighted Material at School

Copyrighted Material at School

There are many copyrighted works out there that can help teachers and students in the classroom, but it doesn’t make sense for most teachers and students to buy licenses for works that might just demonstrate an idea or back up an assertion on a term paper. Using copyrighted material in school can be a tricky.

Thankfully, the fair use doctrine contained in the Copyright Act can give teachers and students a break when it comes to the educational use of works protected by copyright. Teachers and students can use or reproduce portions of a copyrighted work for free under certain circumstances if the work is used as part of a student’s education.

On the other hand, student, teachers, and educational institutions must pay for works when their use goes beyond what is considered fair. Thus, it is important for institutions to educate their students and faculty about what constitutes fair use and when compensation to copyright holders is required.

Fair Use Law at School

Copyright protects works from unauthorized copying, performance or display. This protection provides an incentive for creators to continue to produce works since they know that they will have the sole rights to use or market their work. In certain situations, however, the Copyright Act recognizes that it is in the public’s best interest to allow for the use of a work without compensation to the copyright holder. Quoting a small passage from a novel in the middle of a book report constitutes one such fair use, for example.

There is no exhaustive list of fair uses, and whether or not a use is fair depends on the circumstances surrounding the use. There are four factors that courts will consider when determining whether a use is fair:
The purpose and character of the use: was the use commercial or noncommercial? The nature of the copyrighted work: was the work creative or factual? The amount of the portion used in relation to the entire work: was a substantial part of the work used, or just a small part? The effect of the use on the work’s potential market: did the use effect demand for the copyrighted work?

Four Factors of Fair Use

Examining those four factors, students and teachers can get a sense of when it is permissible to use works under copyright in their education.
As long as the teacher or student uses the work solely for education, this factor weighs in favor of a finding of fair use. Use of a factual work in research is likely to be found fair, but even limited use of a creative work can be fair if all of the other factors are met. If students and teachers only use a small portion, they should be alright. If entire works or substantial amounts are copied, then the use is on shakier ground. If the students and teachers truly need a full version of the work and are only copying to avoid buying a license, then the use probably isn’t fair.

Students and teachers learn by using a wide variety of media: books, internet articles, videos, sheet music — you name it. Different types of media may have different rules associated with them. For video in particular, a committee established a set of guidelines to help educators and students determine when, why and how they could make copies of broadcasts for the purposes of education. If educators deviate from these guidelines, their use may still be fair, but it’s a good idea to stick to the guidelines just to be safe.

Free Consultation with a Utah Trademark Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have a trademark issue you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free intellectual property law consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506