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For Teachers: The Difference between Fair Use and Copyright

April 22, 2014
Some of you are still probably not sure about the difference between what constitutes a copyright infringement and fair use. Well the post I have for you today might help illuminate the key differences between the two concepts.

This post is based on  a two days work reading a wide variety of resources pertaining to copyright and . Please check the references below to learn more about my sources.

What is Copyright ?
Copyright is an inherent law that protects works of the original creators or what is known in the legal terminology as "original works of authorship". Copyright applies both to published and unpublished work. copyright is not only about protection but is also about permission. Copyright holders can grant others the right to reproduce, display, distribute, and produce derivative works based on the original works.

Anything that you can create goes automatically under your copyright as soon as it is represented in a tangible form. And though you do not have to do anything to claim your copyright, it is often recommended that you indicate  your ownership of the work to others  using phrases like: 'copyright by' or its symbol followed by date and name. Some even go further than that to pay a small fee to register the ownership of their works with Copyright office.

What is Copyright Infringement ?
Copyright infringement is when someone copies the work of somebody else without their permission or consent. This infringement can take many forms including reproducing, distributing, changing, performing, and creating derivatives of the original work without a written or oral consent.

What is fair use?
Fair use is a set of tacit guidelines and conventions that enable users to use part or all of the copyrighted material without formal consent of the original creator. Fair use is limited to a very strict and specific purposes including" criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching ( including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research."

What is the difference between plagiarism and copyright?
Plagiarism is representing someone's work as your own. As such, it is an academic convention rather than a legal concept.

Here is a wonderful document from common sense media that you can use with your students to help them figure out whether or not a creative work is fair use.

You can also watch the video below to see how a teacher used this document to teach her students about fair use.

here are more resources on copyright and fair use from Edutopia:

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