Copyright & Your Classroom

Guest blogger: Macie Hall, from the CER's Innovative Instructor.

When we think about teaching, intellectual property rights may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet staff in JHU Center for Educational Resources where I work, and my librarian colleagues, are not infrequently asked by teaching faculty to address concerns about copyright and fair use issues in the classroom.

Copyright logo - black c within a black circle.

For example: “I am assigning my students to do an online exhibition, if they re-use images and videos taken from the web, can we make the exhibits public?” “It’s educational, so it’s fair use, right?” “I’ve created a library of video clips from popular television series to use in teaching. Is it ok to share these with my colleagues?” “How do I know if something is in the public domain?” “Why can’t the library just digitize their collection of film DVDs so we can stream them in our classrooms?”

Unfortunately, neither I nor my colleagues have law degrees with specialization in intellectual property rights (IPR). We are fortunate here at Johns Hopkins to have an Office of Legal Counsel with someone who is an IPR specialist, and there has been an effort to make policies and guidelines about common educational legal concerns easy to find and readily accessible. That’s not the case everywhere, and not all questions need an appointment with an attorney to answer. Sometimes you just need a quick answer to what is likely a common question… Fortunately there are resources to help you.

Last summer Duke University, in collaboration with Emory University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, offered a MOOC, Copyright for Educators & Librarians. “Fear and uncertainty about copyright law often plagues educators and sometimes prevents creative teaching.  This course is a professional development opportunity designed to provide a basic introduction to US copyright law and to empower teachers and librarians at all grade levels.” I signed on and found it informative and engaging. So, I was excited to learn that the course is now being offered on demand.

The “…goal [of the course] is to provide participants with a practical framework for analyzing copyright issues that they encounter in their professional work. We use a lot of real life examples—some of them quite complex and amusing—to help participants get used to the systematic analysis of copyright problems. This course is intentionally a first step toward bridging the gulf that is often perceived between desirable educational practice and legal permissible activities.”

The instructors, Kevin Smith, MLS, JD, Director, Copyright and Scholarly Communication Duke University Libraries; Lisa A. Macklin, JD, MLS, Director, Scholarly Communications Office, Robert W. Woodruff Library, Emory University; and Anne Gilliland, JD, MLS, Scholarly Communications Officer University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill bring knowledge and enthusiasm to the course modules, which are framed as discussions. Now that the course is offered on demand, you can sign up and take it as your schedule allows. There are five units, which cover an introduction to copyright law, a framework for thinking about copyright, owning rights, specific exemptions for teachers and librarians, and understanding and using fair use.

For those of you who need just in time assistance, I can recommend the very thoroughLibGuide on Copyright, put together by our JHU librarians. There is a section specifically for Teaching Faculty, with information on the TEACH Act, Fair Use Teaching Tools, guidelines for the use of copyrighted materials within course management software, and more. Additional resources include a discussion of European Copyright law, and links to other university IPR guides and pages. The Copyright Crash Course website at the University of Texas at Austin Libraries is particularly useful.

Ignorance of the law is not a defense in IPR matters. These resources will help you to get a better grasp of the issues that should be of concern to you in the classroom.

About Donald Juedes

Librarian for Art History, Classics, Film & Media Studies, and Near Eastern Studies

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