Yesterday morning, an interesting email from Dawn Thomsen — a communications partner working with the Learning about Multimedia Project — landed in my inbox.  Dawn asked me if I knew that Friday was the end of Fair Use Week — a time set aside annually for raising awareness about the fair use clause in copyright law — and pointed me to several resources where teachers could learn more about both fair use and copyright.

Given that teachers and students are often wrestling with the rules around both fair use and copyright, I spent the morning poking through content and pulling together a list of three resources that were worth reading and/or using in your classroom with students.

Here they are:

Fairly Used — Teaching Kids the Whole Truth about Copyright: If you are looking to build your own background knowledge about both fair use and copyright law, consider checking out this bit from the Consumerist blog.  It is an approachable read detailing the original history of copyright law — which was originally written during a time when copying anything was close to impossible — and arguing that we spend too much time telling kids that they can’t use copyrighted content instead of showing them ways that they can.

The LAMP Project:  The Learning about Multimedia Project — which is the organization represented by Dawn — is committed to helping students become critical consumers of the media that surrounds them.  They’ve developed a collection of resources and activities that are designed to help students spot bias, understand persuasion techniques, and critically respond to messages shared in the media.

They’ve got a TON of useful resources for teaching students about both copyright and fair use, including this written guide explaining and giving examples of fair use in action, these plans for activities where students intentionally use copyrighted content in ways permitted by the fair use clause, and this video editing tool which can be used to create fair use creations from commercials and/or other video content posted on the web.

Tales from the Public Domain Comic Book — One of the greatest challenges to teaching kids more about copyright and fair use is presenting rather arcane and complicated concepts in a way that captures interest and attention.  That’s why I think this comic book — which tells the story of a fictional documentary filmmaker who is trying to use copyrighted content under fair use rules — has potential.  A project of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, Tales from the Public Domain might be the right hook for visual kids who have grown up with graphic novels.

Whatever you do, take the time to better understand the rules that govern fair use of copyrighted content.

Teachers often believe that we have the right to use any content in any way because we are “covered by fair use.”  While it is certainly true that using copyrighted content is easier for teachers — teaching from copyrighted content is one of the acceptable uses detailed in the fair use clause — assuming that everything we do with copyrighted content is legal is lazy and irresponsible.  Worse yet, it sends the wrong message to the kids in our classrooms, who learn to respect and/or disrespect the ownership rights of content creators by watching the important adults in their lives.

More importantly, take the time to help your students to better understand the rules that govern fair use of copyrighted content.  In a world where copying and sharing and remixing has become the norm rather than the exception to the rule, those are certainly lessons that matter to every learner.



Related Radical Reads:

What do YOU Know about the Creative Commons?

Creative Commons Resources for Classroom Teachers

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