Copyright, Fair Use, Creative Commons

Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons FYIs

What is copyright?

Copyright is protection given to the authors or creators of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic and other intellectual works.  Authors of work have the sole right to copy the work, distribute copies of that work, publicly perform and/or display the work, and make derivative works. It is illegal for anyone other than the author to do these things without explicit permission from the author, except in the case of Fair Use.

Copyright law is US federal law.  The current copyright law is the Copyright Act of 1976.

What is Fair Use?

Fair use exists due to copyright laws (The Copyright Act of 1976). Typically we think of copyright laws limiting what we can do with media/works. But actually, the second half of the copyright agreements empower us to share as a culture. This if often overlooked! Copying, quoting, and re-using existing material can be a really important part of creating and shaping our culture. This is why we agree to share our work with others, with limits, in order to keep that opportunity alive.

You must consider these 4 elements to decide if your use is FAIR USE:

  • The purpose and character of the use – Did you transform the original?
  • The nature of the material – ls it factual, creative, consumable?
  • The amount used – Did you use only the amount necessary?
  • The effect on the market for the original – Are you taking someone’s profits?

If your use falls under Fair Use, you do not need permission from the original owner/creator of the work to use it.

Poster Source of information above

When it’s okay to REMIX, REUSE, or SHARE content, you can use the Creative Commons licenses to guide your work.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons in the Classroom

Copyright and Creative Commons for Kids

We need to model for students that we understand and respect copyright law and that through tools such as Creative Commons, we can respectfully share and use others’ work for new creations!


Where can you find Creative Commons licensed works?


Creative Commons Search – Search many sites at once *Our Favorite! – Free images from photographers around the world – One free photo per day – Huge resource for avatars or small images

Flickr Advanced Search – Use advanced search filters to show only CC licensed images

Morguefile – Free stock photos (Thanks Sue Lyon-Jones for link in comments!)

Open Clipart Libary – Public domain clipart (Thanks Sue Lyon-Jones for link in comments!)

Google Advanced Image Search




Open Clipart Library

Geograph British Isles

Wikimedia Commons





Embed from YouTube, Vimeo, WatchKnowLearn on your blog or website as long as it gives you the embed option.

But if you’re changing the video or making mash-ups, that permission may not apply. You need to read the license carefully.

MOD Films

Internet Archive



CC Mixter Samples



Internet Archive

Owl Music Search


Wikimedia Commons

Curriculum and Text

Wikipedia – Quote away (with a link back) to any information you find on Wikipedia

Curriki – An open curriculum community

Collaborize Classroom Library – A growing resource for discussion questions, lesson plans, and more

Carefully check textbook permissions being reusing any of the content. It’s always best to paraphrase and share ideas in your own original ways, rather than copy word for word.

Works published before 1923 are in the public domain!

US Government works are in the public domain!

A ton of Copyright Friendly links from Joyce Valenza’s wiki

Music and Picture sites

Additional resources:

The Educator’s Guide to Creative Commons

A visual guide to the Creative Commons licenses

Copyright and Fair Use learning module

Copyright law napkin drawing

From Common Sense Media, Lessons and Resources in the category “Creative Credit and Copyright” are available for grades K-12. See here: (video intro)

Copyright Law Fair Use for Instructional Designers

Copyright Confusion

CC search

Is My Use  a Fair Use? poster

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use – I don’t think the seconds/minutes/words used need apply technically if it’s indeed fair use; these are more of recommended guidelines

Principles 4 and 5 on this page cover student use of copyrighted material for educational purposes. Really great descriptions for teacher use, too.

Another great wiki filled with resources from Susie Nestico

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