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Copyright Law: What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You (and Your Budget)

Copyright Law: What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You (and Your Budget)

Do you know what copyright law states about fair use in classrooms? If not, read up on this important matter.

Did you know that even when using the "fair use" clause to print off resources you find on the internet, you cannot just print an infinite number of copies for all classes and all semesters? Teachers often think that fair use gives them carte blanche to do this; however, that is not at all the case. And if you need more proof, look no further than Houston Independent School District. They were just ordered to pay a $9.2 million fine for the blatant disregard of copyright that had been clearly included on a set of study guides the district purchased from a small company. If after having read that article, you still don't believe it couldn't happen to you, know that it can.

If you are uncertain about when you can and cannot use copyrighted material as instructional resources, there is a huge about of information online to guide your decision. Here's a Common Sense Media video that briefly discusses this important and often overlooked issue:

Further, Education World has an excellent 5-part copyright series that I highly recommend:

This series contains thorough, informative content. And not only can educators can learn from it, but they can also use it to educate their students who also need to be aware of what is legal and what isn't. Remember: just because you've never been caught doesn't mean you won't. And some companies employ legal staff who regularly look for violations. One company whose products are highly popular with children and who are sticklers for the law is Disney. If you are currently using any Disney characters or anything else Disney-related in your classroom, you might want to reconsider if you do not have explicit permission.

As one teacher stated in another article rife with examples of school being sued for copyright violations, ""Educators feel no one will sue them because they work for a school and they are exempt."

Knowledge of copyright laws is one area schools should really focus on when training teachers. I don't know about you, but I don't know any schools that could afford a $9.2. million fine without it seriously affecting their overall operations.

If you have any questions, please contact me or Terri Thomas. This is not an issue to take lightly.

Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she provides support, consultation and training on a variety of critical tools and PR functions, including communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations and website content.

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