There are a multitude of 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.
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:
Fair Use in Education
Examining those four factors, students and teachers can get a sense of when it is permissible to use works under copyright in their education.
Different Types of Media
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.
Educators and Students: Need Legal Advice?
While the fair use doctrine generally isn't an excuse to get out of paying for copyrighted works, it is a useful concept that allows students and teachers to take advantage of the vast wealth of knowledge in the world without having to shell out for every minor use of a copyrighted work. If you have specific questions about fair use, contact an experienced business and commercial law attorney today to avoid costly mistakes in the future.