Learning Goals

  • Students will gain a general understanding of the following terms:
    • Copyright
    • Public domain
    • Fair use
  • Students will learn how to conduct a fair use analysis when incorporating copyrighted material (image, text, video, digital, etc.) into his/her creative or scholarly work.

Components for Teaching Fair Use

  • Introduction to copyright, public domain, and fair use
  • Presentation and discussion of works of art that rely on fair use
  • Class discussion of hypothetical scenarios, always coming back to the reasoning in the Code
  • Class assignments followed by discussions and analysis

Tips on Teaching Fair Use

  • Don’t depend on litigation to teach them about fair use; lawsuits are typically outlier cases, and your students need to know the most common, routine, and useful ways to use it. Depend on the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts.
  • Avoid checklists, flow charts, rigid rules (100/400 words; 30 seconds; 7 changes to the object). That’s all folklore. Instead, ground them in the basic logic, so they can learn to reason.
  • Evaluate their performance according to their ability to articulate reasoning that aligns with the Code, and specifically the limitations for each principle. The limitations are where the rubber hits the road in fair use.
  • Have other students, where possible, question the student working through a problem, to get practice in articulating and justifying a fair use.
  • Make sure the students understand that the key notion of “transformation” is about repurposing and context, not about changes to the actual material used.

Using Fair Use in the Classroom

When can you depend on fair use in your classroom teaching? Here’s some help:

Building Fair Use Into Assignments and Tests

You can always give your students an assignment that lets them show you their best reasoning about fair use. But you can also build into your existing assignments a requirement that they consider the fair use implications of their choices, and develop their reasoning skills. (See Class Assignments.) A midterm, final or quiz can contain a question that lets them demonstrate if they understand what fair use is, or how to reason in a particular situation about it.