Dear CSMI,

I am an educator at the high school level teaching a Media Literacy course. I’ve gathered that I have certain protections from fair use because of the educational nature of my curriculum, however I am worried about my students using copyrighted material in their academic work and submissions. What kind of protections would fair use offer my students?



Dear, Saraswati

Sounds like very admirable work you’re doing! And we’re so happy you’re exploring fair use, because it’s helpful both for you and your students. You all have fair use, the conditioned right to employ copyrighted material without licensing it, though it’s not because it’s for educational purposes. Fair use is available to anyone who is repurposing the original material to create something new, and using an appropriate amount. (You also as an educator have some special copyright exemptions for classroom teaching, but that’s not fair use.) The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education is a great resource for you to turn to. Principles One and Two in particular – which have to do with ‘employing copyrighted materials in media literacy lessons’ and ‘employing copyrighted material in preparing curriculum material’ – might prove of most interest to you as an instructor. As for your students, there is a whole segment of the code dedicated to this, as seen in Item Four. Item Four states that ‘educators using concepts and techniques of media literacy should be free to enable learners to incorporate, modify, and re-present existing media objects in their classroom work.’ That principle works within limitation, one of which is that ‘students’ use of copyrighted material should not be a substitute for creative effort.’ There are a few other considerations as well, all of which are outlined in the Code. Make sure you and your students look at them all before making your decision!