Copyright can be a complex, swiftly moving target. The concept of copyright was conceived before the typewriter existed, much less the computer. On the other hand, the essence of copyright can be reduced to common sense for the majority of situations - if you're saving money by copying something, it's likely that you're violating copyright.
It is important to realize that the original copyright legislation was not phrased as a prohibition, but rather as a positive measure to encourage creativity by ensuring that it be rewarded. Our forefathers felt that this protection was so important that it was included in Article I of the Constitution (between establishing the Post Office and provisions for punishing pirates).
Copyright was a fairly simple concept as long as print was the most significant media, movies were watched in theatres, and music played on phonograph records. The simplicity disappeared when digital technology and the World Wide Web obliterated the status quo. The murky waters were further clouded by the variety of sources of copyright regulation. Copyright restrictions may emanate from Congress, from the Department of Copyright (Library of Congress), from court decisions, and even from independent committees.
Why is an understanding of copyright important for educators? Since copyright is part of the Standard Course of Study in areas such as information skills and language arts, it is likely that many students will be familiar with the basic principles. For this reason, modeling ethical behavior is important for teachers who wish to be perceived as competent and honest. If this argument is not enough to sway fence-straddling teachers, perhaps they will be influenced by the possibility of financial and legal penalties, and the fact that educators have been fired for violating copyright.
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Fair Use Checklist
Obtaining Performance Rights
Simplified Copyright Guidelines
Expanded Copyright Guidelines
Stanford Copyright and Fair Use
Columbia University Fair Use Checklist
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