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Management Issues

There are many issues related to managing electronic materials collections. From Internet safety to copyright issues, young people and their adult supervisors face many issues in working with electronic materials.

teen library

Spaces for Young People

Green LanternKeep in mind that electronic materials involve both the physical and virtual spaces.

Where will the physical materials be housed? What about devices and equipment? How will youth access these resources?

How will youth access virtual materials? How will they access the required usernames and passwords necessary to use electronic databases or download e-books?

Many libraries are updating their policies and procedures with electronic collections in mind. For instance, how will passwords be provided for access to electronic databases? How will e-books be distributed on e-book readers?

Let's say you have the electronic version of the DC comics in your library. How will young people access them?

eye means readRead!
Read DuBroy, Michelle (2010). Building virtual spaces for children in the digital branch. Australian Library Journal, 59(4), 211-223.

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Go to the Teen Spaces Guidelines at YALSA. Scroll down through the guidelines examining the guidelines specifically aimed at physical and virtual spaces related to electronic materials. Also, look at the overall guidelines and think about how they connect with today's digital youth.

The Digital Divide

The digital divide is the disparity between those who have access to information and communication technologies and those that don't.

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Read The Digital Divide Is Still Learning Americans Behind.
Read Who's Not Online and Why? from PewInternet.
Think about your community. Is there a digital divide?

While some people view the introduction of electronic reading as increasing the digital divide, others see technology as the answer to literacy issues around the world. is striving to put books in the hands of children around the world. Read the FAQs to learn more about this program. According to Worldreader, digital books have three advantages over physical books. First, they provide nearly instance access to a huge collection of books. Second, the cost of shipping is near zero. Third, the cost of digital content is low. The Magic Treehouse series is a collection available through this program.

Acceptable Use of Electronic Materials

"Acceptable Use" means different things to different people. Many parents, teachers, and librarians are concerned about children and young adults accessing information resources that might be inappropriate. The question becomes who determines what's appropriate?

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Read the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom statements. These statements refer to electronic materials as well as traditional resources.

The issue for public libraries focuses on the fine line between intellectual freedom and censorship. The issue for educators relates to age and curriculum appropriateness.

Like all people, children have the right to access information. However there is some debate over who should make the decision about what’s appropriate for a five or fifteen-year-old person.

Supervision of Children and Young Adults

Most people would agree that the Playboy, Penthouse, and adult forums are not resources appropriate for children and young adults. The question becomes, where do we draw the line? What about a “safe sex” site that provides information about contraceptives and AIDS? What about a site that discusses issues related to evolution and creationism? What about tarot cards, UFOs, and ghost hunting? A “beer brewing” website may be of interest to adults wishing to make their own beer, but may be inappropriate for young children.

In addition to issues about the age appropriateness of materials, there are also concerns about the accuracy of information, reading level, complexity of information, and other considerations that might make a site inappropriate for children.

How do you restrict student use without restricting intellectual freedom? Who determines age appropriateness? Who does the monitoring and/or censoring? After considering all the “questionable” materials students might find, some school districts are exploring options for restricting student access.

Always remember that young people have the right to access information. However there are also special considerations when dealing with minors and their access to online resources. For instance, some social networking sites have specific age requirements.

eye means readRead Intellectual Freedom for Youth: Social Technology and Social Networks in Knowledge Quest (PDF) by Annette Lamb.
Read Intellectual Freedom by Annette Lamb.

Acceptable Use Policies

The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) implemented in 2001 and updated in 2011, requires that schools and libraries providing Internet access to youth must provide a safe environment. They must adopt and implement an Internet safety policy addressing the following areas:

(a) access by minors to inappropriate matter on the Internet;
(b) the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms and other forms of direct electronic communications;
(c) unauthorized access, including so-called “hacking,” and other unlawful activities by minors online;
(d) unauthorized disclosure, use, and dissemination of personal information regarding minors; and
(e) measures restricting minors’ access to materials harmful to them.

Explore the following examples of acceptable use policies. Or, do a search on Google for acceptable use policies for libraries.

Go to La Vernia ISD Community/Library. Identify key elements of their policy. Then, compare it to one of the following policies.

School AUP Examples

Library AUP Examples

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Choose an Acceptable Use Policy from the list above, use your own policy, or search library and school websites for policies. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the policy. Or, compare two policies. Be sure to share the policy you use.

In addition to general policies, some libraries have acceptable use policies related to particular electronic materials.

Compare the E-Reader Acceptable Use Policy from Saint Raymond Academy for Girls with the St. Pius X Catholic School eReader Acceptable Use Policy.

Contracts and Permissions

School and library administrators are becoming increasingly concerned about parent and public reaction to age inappropriate information on the Internet. This has led most schools to develop Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). These AUPs provide guidelines for administrators, students, teachers, parents, and patrons.

According to a 2007 by School Library Journal, 98% of schools have acceptable-use policies and 98% use filtering software.

Many schools and libraries require students to sign contracts and parents to read and sign permission slips. This procedure helps to inform parents about the potential concerns regarding Internet resources. In addition, it is thought that these policies would help protect the schools from possible legal problems associated with student and teacher action using the Internet.

Some schools and libraries have created mechanisms for students to take responsibility for their own actions. Student contracts may ask students to self-monitor their activities. They often discuss the importance of following basic rules of conduct on the Internet. You might consider using the following statements:


The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) also requires that schools and libraries providing Internet access to youth must provide a safe environment.

"1) their Internet safety policies must include monitoring the online activities of minors; and 2) as required by the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, they must provide for educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response."

To receive e-rate funding, the library must meet the guidelines of Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). CIPA requires:

Many school and public libraries offer lessons and workshops related to responsible use of technology. These programs place emphasis of personal responsibility and the importance of being a good digital citizen.

Use websites to help teach young people about Internet safety:

Explore the following resources for adults working with youth.

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Go to websites that focus on Internet safety for young people. Compare and contrast their approaches and resources.

Read Teens, Social Media, and Privacy from the PewResearchCenter. What are the implications for libraries?

Filtering Tools and Issues

Librarians agree that children and young adults need access to information. The question becomes whether or not to limit their access.

Read Censorship by Omission by Doug Johnson (January/February 2010).
Do you agree or disagree with Johnson's logic?

Many libraries receive e-rate funds to off-set the cost of telecommunication services. To receive e-rate funding, the library must meet the guidelines of Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). CIPA requires:

"Schools and libraries subject to CIPA may not receive the discounts offered by the E-rate program unless they certify that they have an Internet safety policy that includes technology protection measures. The protection measures must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are: (a) obscene; (b) child pornography; or (c) harmful to minors (for computers that are accessed by minors). Before adopting this Internet safety policy, schools and libraries must provide reasonable notice and hold at least one public hearing or meeting to address the proposal."

However, according to CIPA "an authorized person may disable the blocking or filtering measure during use by an adult to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes."

Go to the E-Rate Program page and the School and Libraries E-Rate page. Examine the requirements.

You have the spectrum of options from full to limited access. You may choose full-access to Internet with supervision. In other words, rather than students exploring for any information they can find, you may restrict students to specific Web addresses.

Another option is limited access, which allows you to select a service with “lock out” capabilities. Many of the commercial services allow a parent or educator to place a password restricting access to some areas. Currently, these “lock outs” are fairly global and may provide more restrictions than you would choose.

Filtering services provide software and regular updates that "lock-out" specific sites that have been identified as "inappropriate." Librarians can add or delete specific sites in addition to the ones already listed.

At the far end of the spectrum, you may choose a commercial service that selects the Internet resources for you. Rather than the librarian making the decision about what might or might not be appropriate, these services establish pre-selected resources that provide access to only resources they have identified as useful to teachers and children. These types of services would reduce the amount of supervision that would be required, however you may lose some valuable resources. For example, consider products such as Nettrekker. These subscription-services provide access to quality websites for young people. 

As you can see, there are many advantages and disadvantages of each alternative.

To learn more about filtering and content-control software, go to Wikipedia's Content-control software page.

Read Statement on Library Use of Filtering Software from ALA. Notice that this document was last revised in 2000, however it continues to be ALA's stand on the topic.

Read AASL Filtering Supplement (PDF).

Explore some examples of filtering software services:

Read Kranich, Nancy (Winter 2004). Why Filters Won't Protect Children or Adults. Library Administration & Management, 18(1), 14-18.

Regardless of your institution's approach to content-control, it's a good idea to publish your policies and use of filtering software.

Go to Internet Filtering FAQs from Denver Public Library. Notice their Request for Reconsideration of Access to a Website form. What do you think of their approach?

Read Caldwell-Stone, Deborah (April 2, 2013). Filtering and the First Amendment. American Libraries. To learn about what states have filtering requirements, go to NCSL.

Read Reitman, Rainey (September 4, 2013). The Cost of Censorship in Libraries: 10 Years Under the Children's Internet Protection Act. Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Website Evaluation

It's important that young people learn how to critically evaluate web-based materials.

Evaluation Tips

Provide students with tips for evaluating websites. For instance, they should find the ABOUT page to learn who created the information and they think about who sponsors the website and their perspective.

Match Sources to Questions. After students have identified their questions (or been given questions), students brainstorm where they would go for information. Provide students with a list of possible sources. Ask students to compare their list to the master list of options. Discuss the pros and cons of different source. Ask students to prioritize sources.

Best Source for Job. Brainstorm all the possible resources related to a topic. Discuss the pros and cons of each resource. Divide the class into groups. Each member is assigned one type of resource to locate and find two pieces of information. As a group, they discuss the pros and cons of each resource and the information they found.

Using Information Sources. Ask students to skim and scan for information using various sources. For instance, ask them to gather information from a chart comparing cell phone costs and plans.

Search for Clues. Start by examining the page itself. Look at the web address (URL). What kind of domain (.edu, .gov, .org, .net, .com) is it? This doesn't always help, but it may provide an indication of the sponsor. Is it a government site, school resource, museum, commercial or private web project? Try to determine who published the page. Is it an individual or an agency? Can you find a name attached to the page? Look at the core page for the entire website (everything between the http:// and the first /) and see who sponsored the site and how information was selected. You might also try truncating the website address to see each level between slashes.
Sometimes you can answer these questions by reading the creation information at the bottom of the main page. Look for a name, organization, or email address. If you can't find the answer there, see if you can locate a page that tells "about the website." Sometimes there's a "contact us" page. The author of the page and the webmaster may or may not be the same person.
For information about the content of the page, look for a link to an author biography, philosophy, or background information.
Another hint about the quality of the website is the copyright date. When was the page originally posted? When was the last time the page was updated? This information is generally at the bottom of each page or at least the first page of the website.
Look for Sponsors. Does the site use banner sponsors? What do they sell? Is a well-known organization a sponsor? Consider whether the site's sponsors could impact the perspective to the website. In most cases, a company wants the information at their site to reflect positively on them.
Ask Questions. If you still can't determine the quality of the information, consider emailing the webmaster and asking about the site's content. Students will be amazed at the range of answers that will be provided. Some webmasters post anything that's given to them, while others are experts in a content area field.
Track Backward and Forward. Another way to learn more about a website is to see "who links to them" and "who they link to." Use a search engine to search for the "URL" or author of the website in question. Does it appear on a "favorites" list? If so, whose list? Is this list credible? If the site has won an award, what's the criteria for the award and how is the award given? You can also track forward. In other words, look at the links that are used by the web developer of your site. Do they go to good or poor quality sites? Is this website cited in subject guides such as or Librarian's Index?
Cross-Check Data. In addition to the act of evaluating a single page, students also need to learn to cross-check information. In other words, there should be three independent resources confirming each pieces of questionable data. This cross-checking can be done different ways. For example, if students are creating a graphic organizer, they could star each item that has been doubled or triple checked. Consider using a variety of information formats including encyclopedia, magazine articles, videos, experts, and web pages.

Evaluation Resources

Evaluation Criteria

Students need to learn to evaluate the quality of information they find on the web as well as other information resources such as books, magazines, DVD, and television. Ask students to be skeptical of everything they find. Encourage them to compare and contrast different information resources. Consider the following ideas:

Authority. Who says? Know the author.

Objectivity. Is the information biased? Think about perspective. 

Authenticity. Is the information authentic? Know the source.

Reliability. Is this information accurate? Consider the origin of the information. 

Timeliness. Is the information current? Consider the currency and timeliness of the information. 

Relevance. Is the information helpful? Think about whether you need this information.

Efficiency. Is this information worth the effort? Think about the organization and speed of information access.

Resources for Evaluation

Consider designing a set of criteria that fits the needs of your students. For instance, a media specialist in Ohio (Pete Hildebrandt) created the SWAT approach for his students (download the PowerPoint overview). Use a website like the American Museum of Natural History Ology pages to model this idea.

Fact, Fiction and Fake

Some people post inaccurate information on the web. Students need to be aware of misinformation and fake websites. Do you believe everything you read? How gullible are you? There are people who believe that we never walked on the moon and that the Holocaust never happened, so be careful when you read a web page. The truth is out there, but so is the lie. Look for what Wikipedia calls the "verifiability" of information. You should be able to check the material you find against other reliable sources. Content that is likely to be challenged should contain multiple sources of evidence that have been carefully cited.

There are dozens of fictional websites, fake pages, and hoaxes you can use to teacher students about this issue. The Anti-Alien Agency is an example of a fake website designed to go with a fiction book called Spaceheadz.

Use Snopes to check for the latest online rumors. Use the following fake websites to discuss the problem of fake websites:

Use the following questions to see if students can spot a fake website:

Evaluation Activities

Before asking students to evaluate websites as part of a larger project, develop guided activities where you can model issues related to website accuracy and reliability.

Currency Focus. Look for current and dated information on social studies, science, or health topics that have changed recently such as the number of planets. Go to the Wikipedia: Current Event page to see a list of those articles that are currently changing as the event unfolds. 

Controversy Focus. Look for controversial topics and identify websites with particular views. Read the "about" pages of websites. Can you determine why particular views might be presented in this website? Go to the Wikipedia: List of controversial issues as a starting point for this topic. They provide a list of pages where the neutrality of content has been challenged and editing wars have been waged. Check out the current topics. How would you determine the neutrality of articles? Also, examine the issue of Conflict of Interest. Read Wikipedia's Conflict of Interest page to understand this issue.

SWAT. Develop your own approach or use the SWAT approach. Provide students with examples. For instance, after conducting a SWAT you determine that the Louisiana Coastal Wetlands: A Resource At Risk page is a good source of information, however it was posted in 1995. We need to determine what has changed in nearly 20 years.

Web-based Activities. Use online resources to help students learn about website evaluation. Then, ask students to critically evaluate the information they identify. They should describe their process of evaluation and how they determine whether a website is trustworthy.

Use the following resources to design activities:

Copyright Issues

Have you ever written a story, created a work of art, or composed a song? If so, you have created intellectual property. Written works, photographs, artwork, and music are a few of the many products that people create from information and ideas. Many people enjoy sharing their intellectual property with others. However, they may want to get credit for their hard work.

From audiobooks to feature films, libraries house a wide variety of commercially produced materials. With audio and video recorders, MP3 recorders, as well as computers, it's easy to duplicate materials. Regardless of whether you're using materials from Internet resources, CDs, or DVDs, you need to know your rights and responsibilities.

Copyright Law

Copyright is the right to use ideas or information created by someone else. The copyright law is intended to protect the rights of content developers and describes restrictions that can be placed on copying materials. In other words, if you create information, you should get credit. This credit can come in the form of money if you sell the information in a book, CD, or subscription Internet service. In some cases, people aren't concerned about money, but they want to make certain that their name or organization is associated with the information.

All users should be aware of a few general points regarding the current copyright law. Copyright protection exists for all works created in any medium or format of expression as long as the work is fixed in a tangible form of expression so that it can be perceived or communicated, with or without the aid of equipment. Besides copying materials, the copyright law also involves issues such as licensing products and public performance rights.

It doesn't matter whether the resource is a videoclip from the Weather Channel online or a classic feature film like Old Yeller, the copyright applies to all materials.

Motion pictures, videos, DVDs, audios, and other materials are protected by U.S. Code: Title 17 - Copyrights. Unauthorized use or copying may be prohibited by law. Materials do not have to be registered or identified as being copyrighted material in order for copyright protection to apply. Persons are prohibited from duplicating copyrighted works unless the action is authorized by (a) specific exemptions in the copyright law, (b) the principle of fair-use, (c) the fair-use guidelines, and (d) licenses or written permission from the copyright owner.

All four broad criteria must be met in order to apply fair use (Section 107), the judicial “rule of reason”:

Black CatLet's take the short video produced by Spoken Arts called Black Cat.

Can you play the video for a group in the school as well as at the public library? The answer to this question is yes. Spoken Arts include the public performance rights with all its products. However, most publishers do not.

Do you have permission to make a copy of the tape onto a CD? The answer to this question is, it depends. If the tape case is cracked and you want to move the tape to a new container, fine. If you want to copy the tape onto a new cassette or a CD and toss the old one, it becomes an interpretation of the law. If it's still for sale, you'll need to buy a replacement. If you want to make multiple copies to send home with the children, the answer is no.

If there's ever a question, your best bet is to contact the publisher and ask. Educational publishers are particularly helpful in answering questions.

Although a Copyright Notice is no longer required by U.S. law, most commercially produced videotapes, CDs, and DVDs contain this notice. Some are generic labels, while others carry specific guidelines for use of these materials. Read the circular Copyright Notice from the Library of Congress. It provides information about the notice.

Examine a dozen different products and note the location and contents of the copyright information. Do they all agree? How are they different?

In a global community such as the Internet, the laws become an issue. For example, the copyright laws in different countries vary. In the US, the copyright law contains a "fair use" section that gives people some flexibility to use and share information. Keep in mind that people interpret the laws differently.

You need to know the laws to protect you, your students, and the developers of Internet content. What's the law? What's your responsibility?

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Try the Copyright Interactive from Cyberbee.
Try the Thinking Through Fair Use.
How did you do about these tools?

Copyleft Licensing

Copyleft is a recent term used to describe the removal of restrictions on the use of ideas and information. People who wish to share their materials can use the copyleft license to allow others to reproduce, adapt, and distribute copies of their work. Rather than placing materials in the public domain without restriction, copyleft groups such as Creative Commons and GNU General Public License provide a range of open source options.

Student Fairs and Projects

What rules and laws govern the use of materials in student projects? Use the following materials to help you understand your role and responsibility.

Go to Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines for Student Project (PDF) from Kathy Schrock.

Students and teachers creating web projects are faced with an interesting issue related to linking to information. If you're creating a list of popular websites are you allowed to link to these websites or do you need to get permission? Is it okay to link to other people's websites? Read the article on Linking Rights for a nice discussion of the issues.

Off-Air Recording Guidelines for Broadcast TV for Education

Do you want to use the latest's Ken Burn's documentary in your school library? What about the Weather Channel's program on tornadoes? What about the older Magic Schoolbus series on Fox? Do you have the right to copy these programs for use later? It's called "off-air recording." Although a general site of guidelines are described below, check the website of the program you wish to record for up-to-date information about specific rules.

The term “off-air” recording refers to recording a broadcast program, one transmitted by a television station without charge to the general public, or a cable program that is also available on-air in your viewing area. Other than the above fair-use guidelines, the 1976 copyright law did not cover the educational use of videorecorded programming from commercial broadcasts. These guidelines were developed by a committee of representatives from government, education, and producers, distributors of commercial materials.

They were agreed upon to be taken in good faith, but were not made part of the Copyright Act. Table 6-2 provides links to some wonderful Internet resources related to the copyright law. Take some time to explore the laws and their implications for your program. Below you'll find a description of some of the most important elements of the laws.

Videorecording of Satellite-cast Programming
The above fair-use exemptions from the copyright law do not apply for satellite programming. Satellite transmissions are private communications protected by the Federal Communications Act and governed by the Communications Act (Title 47, U.S. Code). Programming from satellite transmission may not be recorded without a license or written permission. This includes HBO, Showtime, The Disney Channel and the other satellite and cable services too.

Use of Rental or Purchased “HOME USE ONLY”
If an educational institution purchases a copy of a DVD with a warning label “FOR HOME USE ONLY”, it is permissible to use the video for face-to-face instruction with students (Section 110 - 1, Copyright Act). The key here is that the program is incorporated as part of the systematic teaching activities of the curriculum in which it is being used. The program may not be shown for other than instructional purposes unless a specific agreement is entered into at the time of purchase. The rental of a FOR HOME USE ONLY DVD for classroom use brings issues of contract law into play. Basically, when one rents something, they are agreeing to all conditions of the rental agreement, stated or implied.

Videorecording Television News Programs
Libraries and archives are permitted to make and distribute copies of televised news programs (Section 108, f, 3). This exemption is intended to apply to the daily newscasts of the national television networks that report the major events of the day. It does not apply to documentary, magazine-format or other public affairs broadcasts that deal with subjects of general public interest. Copies of programs made under this provision are intended for research and CANNOT be used in classrooms or reproduced for commercial distribution.

Public Television
Public television does not mean that teachers and schools have the right to record and shelve that PBS programming. Those PBS stations that run instructional television (ITV) programming during school hours usually enter into contractual agreements with member schools for only that specific programming. The other PBS network programming can be used in classrooms in accordance with the off-air videotaping guidelines. Many of the PBS programs, such as the NOVA series can be purchased directly from PBS Video or individual producers and distributors. In many cases, the purchase of off-air recording rights is much less costly than the outright purchase of a DVD copy.

Permissible Uses of Videorecorded Materials
Duplication of visual or audio materials from a non-dramatic literary work is permitted in order to provide materials for the deaf or blind. In addition, these and other copyrighted materials may be legally transmitted to blind or deaf individuals via a cable or closed circuit television system.

Other Videorecording (Copying) Prohibitions
The copyright law and its related guidelines do not allow the entire reproduction of any audiovisual work in its entirety, except for off-air videorecording as per those guidelines. No conversion of one media format into another (i.e., from 16mm film to DVD) is permitted with the exception that copies of old motion picture film that is subject to deterioration, and no longer available for purchase may be made for archival reservation.

magic school busEvolving Guidelines
Because so many of the programs are now available for purchase, many groups have discontinued their off-air taping rights.

For example, The Magic Schoolbus is an example of an educational program that contains lots of different elements. There are books, DVDs, VHS tapes, television programs, and educational software. The Magic Schoolbus website is sponsored by Scholastic. The website has videoclips and activities.There are no longer any off-air taping rights for Scholastic's The Magic School Bus." However the videos are available for sale.

Additional Resources on Off-Air Recording

Skim The Educator's Guide to Copyright and Fair Use, a 5-part curriculum article at Education World.

Seeking Copyright Permissions for Videos

Often a teacher sees a program that is being broadcast, recognizes a classroom use for the content, and makes a copy. Sometimes, they may want to seek permission to keep and use a portion or all of the program, long-past the provisions set forth in the off-air guidelines. Recognize that many commercial programs, including PBS and others, are marketed to the general public, and that in many cases they have pricing for

However, a teacher may still make a formal request and sometimes receive permission to keep the videorecorded programming. That request has to be made to the organization that has the distribution rights for the program. In most cases that is not the broadcast network or station; but unless the distributor is known, that is the place to begin the search. Phone or contact the broadcast station, directing the inquiry to the “Director of Programming.”

In most cases, the programming director should be able to tell you the name and address of the distributor or refer you to some other information source. Once you have located the distribution rights holder (copyright holder) and their address, a formal letter should be sent on institutional letterhead requesting permission to retain the program. A reminder, that distributors are marketing their products and are leery of any infringement of that market; therefore, identify yourself and then make your case on the basis of using the least amount of the program as possible, briefly explaining exactly how, where, and when you plan to use it in your instruction. Keeping the letter to under one page, ask to please make and retain one video off-air recording of the program or program segment. Include the following details within your letter.

Provide a place for the respondent to check either “permission granted as per request” or “permission denied” and a place for their signature, title, and the date. Enclose two copies of the form, and a self-addressed, stamped return envelope. Ask if they will grant permission, to please check the appropriate box, sign the form, and return a copy to you. Inform them that the second copy is for their files.

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Examine the sample Video Permission Form. It's a standard form that can be modified for use with any topic of media request. For example, you might ask for permission to reproduce a cartoon, part of a document, or a portion of a radio program. Modify the form to meet your individual needs. If you wish to copy text, illustrations, or video off a Internet, contact the webmaster for that particular site. Their email address is normally at the bottom of the first page of the website.

Licensing and Performance Rights

Some libraries use movies as part of their public programming. Public libraries must obtain a license to show movies in public. People involved with school programs such as dramas and music programs need to know about permissions too.

The copyright law can be confusing for educators. It’s important that everyone has a clear understanding of the intent of the law. Most videos you buy at the store are protected by the copyright law and not intended for use outside the home. However, the “fair use” section of the copyright law allows teachers to play these videos during face-to-face instruction where the video is part of the school curriculum. If the video is being used for entertainment purposes, then a Movie Copyright Compliance Site License is required. For example, public libraries, day-care facilities, summer camps, and churches must obtain this permit.

Many organizations are involved with issues related to the legal use of audio and video materials. Many of these sites provide information on copyright, licensing and royalties.

Other Organizations

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Visit Get Movies and TV Shows at the Motion Picture Association of America. Also read thePublic Performance and FAQ sections. Also read the Summaries of Fair Use Cases from Stanford University Libraries.

What do you think? Do libraries do a good job following the copyright law? Are patrons adequately informed about their rights and responsibilities? Interview a librarian or educator about their policies and procedures. Explore the issue related to public viewing in schools, churches, and public libraries – what’s a public performance? What’s a class? What are performance rights? How does the library handle this?

Dealing with the Issues

Being true to the copyright law can be a challenge. Answers to specific questions are often not exact. This section will address common questions and issues often encountered by librarians. Keep in mind that the instructor is not a lawyer and each librarian may interpret the law slightly differently based on specific circumstances.

I can show my students Saving Private Ryan if it’s for educational purposes. However, if I want to show it the last day of class for entertainment, that’s illegal. Correct or Incorrect?

Correct, the first use is educational and the second is entertainment.

Dr. Conrad is making Ms. Smith very nervous. He rents Disney DVDs from the local video store and duplicates them for his classroom collection. Who is liable? The school, the teacher, and/or the librarian?

Everyone would probably be listed on the lawsuit. Your best defensive is a good copyright policy along with support of an effective administrator. The copyright policy should state that instructors who duplicate audiovisual materials from the collection assume full liability. You may also want faculty to sign a waiver for anything they use in school that may have a questionable origin.

Donna wants to put together her own foreign language CD using some of the audio conversations from an audiotape series she purchased. Does she need to get permission to do this? Is so, how should she go about getting permission?

Permission to duplicate works must be obtained from the copyright holder.

Ms. Keller is teaching a class with three remote sites. She only has one copy of the DVD that she wants all the students to watch. She is planning to digitize the video and put it the school server so everyone can get to it.

If multiple copies of audiovisual materials are needed, they must be purchased.

For the last 20 years, Doc Johnson has been using a betamax videotape on the proper technique for shoeing horses. The only betamax player is almost dead. The tape is no longer available. He wants to convert the betamax tape to DVD.

Duplication of materials is allowed only for preservation purposes if unused copies are no longer available at a fair price.

Mrs. Vi Deo is concerned that her new DVDs might get scratched. She always makes archival copies of her computer software. Is she allowed to make copies of DVDs if she does it on her computer? Isn’t this computer software?

The copyright law does not allow making archival materials of any materials except computer software without the permission of the copyright holder.

Susie Converter has decided that it’s time to get rid of all the old audiotapes. She’s decided to turn them into MP3 files and make them available on the library server.

Duplication from one format to another is not allowed without the permission from the copyright holder.

Ken thought he got the PBS special recorded, but when he checked the recording, it was blank. Can he request a copy from another school?

No, you are only permitted to tape the show directly off the air. Making duplicates is not allowed. However, Ken could borrow a copy from another school within the 10 day limit.

The coach of the flag team has created a video showing the routines of different drill teams across the country. She wants to put the video on reserve in the library so students can video it. You’re concerned about copyright. What should you do?

Explain your concern to the flag team coach and ask her to sign a waiver like the one below.
Duplicate Recording Copyright Statement - The library media center accepts only legal recordings. Because the recording appears to be a duplicate rather than the original, a certification of legality is required.
_ I hold the copyright on the recording.
_ This recording is not covered by copyright. Please explain:
_ I have received oral or written permission from the copyright holder. Please show evidence.

A local preschool teacher loves the television program Blues Clues. She wants to know if she can create a personal video library and use the tapes over and over again. They are for educational purposes.

Off-air recordings of broadcast programs may be used in a manner consistent with fair use. An off-air recording may be retained for 45 days. It must then be erased of destroyed.

My principal wants me to share my student's projects at a teacher inservice. Some have videoclips from CNN that we cited, but did not get permission to use. What should I do?

Educators may perform or display their multimedia projects (which incorporates copyrighted works) as part of the curriculum-based instruction in face-to-face or restricted access. This includes workshops, conferences, and portfolios of students and teachers.

Mrs. Pira Rate recorded the movie "Old Yeller" ten years ago. She wants you to add it to the collection. If you accept the tape into your collection, are you legally liable since Mrs. Pira Rate made the tape?

Yes, you are liable and should not accept the tape. This should also be in your "gift policy".


During recent years, there has been lots of discussion about the copyright law as it relates to distance education. In November 2002, the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act was signed into law. It says that schools can use copyright protected materials in distance education including websites without permission from the copyright owner. Although there are a few restrictions, this is a very important new law. For more information check these websites:

Read about the TEACH act. Create a list of the basic guidelines that might be helpful for your teachers or patrons.

The Easy, Legal, and Professional Way

Dealing with copyright issues and performance rights can be a difficult area. However it's important to keep in mind the original intent of the laws, your rights and responsibilities as a library director, and the particular situation.

The following is a real-world situation.

The PTO is planning a "movie night" in an elementary school making use of Movie Licensing USA. Is this okay or not okay?

Review the law at Understanding Copyright. The law is pretty clear on what is and is not an "educational exemption". The answer comes down to the mission of your school. If the movie doesn't address a "core, current curriculum" component it shouldn't be happening, period.

A librarian can take one of three positions. You need to decide what kind of professional you will become.

Easy Way - I know that family movie nights are happening in many schools. I know that schools have tried to address this using the following "work around"... however it's like going 60 mph in a 55 mile an hour zone. It's not legal, but it's happening. We'll just "make it work" by:
1 Calling the parent "supervisors" of "learning activities".
2. Focusing on a school-wide theme that is reflected in the curriculum such as character development, recycling, or bullying. For instance, this could be done with The Karate Kid. Select a film that reflects this theme with pre-film and post-film activities.

Legal Way - I go to the administration and demand that they follow the guidelines to get a Public Performance Site License.

Professional Way - I will approach the PTO committee and pose the following questions:


Use the following websites to become a better informed information user.

US Copyright Guidelines and the Law

Copyright Information

There may be times when you want to get permission to use an excerpt of text or a photograph from a book, CD, or Internet site. How do you get permission? What kinds of rules do you need to set up in your school? The following websites contain ideas and guidelines:


If you'd like more information, consider taking the online CyberBee Copyright Workshop. Remember the following three tips:

Copryight for Kids

Let's use the analogy of visiting an art museum. It's okay to give directions to a museum, but it's not okay to steal the artwork. Some museums loan out their artwork or let you take a copy home. However, you'd need permission to do this. Although there may be many entrances into the building, the museum may request that you only enter through the front door. Some museums charge an entry fee while others are free. Discuss this analogy. Does it fit the Internet? Can you add other aspects that reflect both a museum and the Internet? 

Can you think of another analogy that fits? 

Create a set of copyright guidelines for your school. Include a standard permissions request form.

Discuss the copyright law with students and why citing sources is important.

Use online interactives and online tools to teach about the law.

Teacher Resources


Citing Sources

Regardless of whether the source is a website, an email communication, or a PowerPoint presentation, students need to cite their source.

Just as there are many guidelines for citing books, there are many organizations who have developed rules for Internet citations. The key is consistency. Select a format that is easy for students to use and contains the basic elements needed to locate that source. Particularly on web-based documents, it's not always easy to identify an author or the original copyrighted work. Just do your best to give credit for the words, images, and ideas.

When to Cite and Why to Cite

Although the right to receive credit is not part of the copyright law, the Right of Attribution is an important custom that supports the efforts of creators.

Before you cite a source such as an encyclopedia or Wikipedia, ask yourself: is there a better source for this information that may be more exact or reliable? When possible, go to the original source. If Wikipedia states the population of Alberta, Canada, see if you can locate the original census data. In many cases, a citation to the original course will be provided.

If you plan to cite a rapidly changing website such as Wikipedia, be sure to follow Wikipedia's guidelines for citing sources.

Online Resources

Use the following resources as you develop a strategy for helping young people cite resources.

Online Citation Tools

These resources automate the process of creating a citation. In most cases, students copy and paste the citation they build into their bibliography or reference list.

Citation Styles

Model the process of citing sources. Complete a citation as a group identifying the required information. Use Leslie Preddy's Pre-Search Activity 2: Free Inquiry (PDF) sheet as an example.

Use the following resources to learn about the different citations styles.

Citing Work in Your Project

Whether you summarize, paraphrase, or quote an article, website, interview, photo, or other materials in your project, you need to give credit to the author. The following resources will help you in this process.

Source Information

Before you can cite a source, you need to understand the various sources of information. Use these resources to help identify sources, their use and how to acknowledge them.

Teacher Resources on Citing Sources

As you design lessons and project guidelines, consider the skills that students already have related to citing sources. What can you add to their understanding? Stress the importance of acknowleding the work of others. Many school districts and organizations provide quality resources to help students understand the process of citing resources as well as the importance of this activity.

Rather than viewing citing resources as a separate lesson or assignment, seek ways to integrate this activity into the inquiry process.

try itTry It!
Using ideas in the resources provided, create your own worksheet to help students in citing resources. Include the level of detail needed for your students. Be sure to provide examples. Finally, cite the sources you used in creating the handout.

Plagiarism Concerns

Plagiarism is the activity of implying or claiming authorship of materials by incorporating them into a creative work without adequate attribution. Using the work of others without acknowledgement is a breach of ethics.

In schools, plagiarism is considered cheating and academically dishonest. The use of quotations and proper citations is the easiest way to overcome plagiarism.

Go to Plagiarism from Wikipedia to learn more and read examples.

Plagiarism is a concern of both students and teachers. It's a form of academic dishonesty and occurs when a student claims the work of others as he or her own. It doesn't matter if the "copying" is intentional or not. It's still plagiarism. There are three easy ways to avoid plagiarism. First, cite all information including audio and images used in a project. Second, always use quotes when copying directly from a source. Third, summarize or paraphrase key ideas not entire passages.

Creating a final product that involves transforming information from one form to another is an easy way to avoid plagiarism. For instance, turn historical facts into a visual timeline or turn a photograph into a paragraph description. Or ask students to make a comparison rather than simply reporting on a topic.

Plagiarism in Schools

Read about the issue of plagiarism in news articles such as Plagiarism Case Bedevils Kansas School. For the past century, children have been given the same assignment, "write a paragraph about ..." For the same amount of time, students have copied information from the encyclopedia. With the introduction of CD-ROM, Internet, and word processing, copying and pasting has gotten even easier. How do you discourage this behavior? First, give students assignments that require them to use higher order thinking. In other words, ask them to analyze, synthesize, and formulate new ideas based on old information. These types of reports can't be copied. Also, talk to students about the ethics of using the work of others. Discuss the term plagiarism and how to avoid it. Teach them how to properly cite their sources.

try itTry It!
Try a great web interactive called You Quote It, You Note It! from Vaughan Memorial Library.

There are some great online resources to help teach students about plagiarism.

Explore a couple lessons for teaching about plagiarism.

Papermills and Plagiarism Detection

Papermills, also know as essay mills, are services that sell academic papers to students who wish to cheat. If you're concerned that students might be copying essays from the Internet, it's easy to check their work. Use a search engine such as Google to search for a sample phrase (put it in quotation marks) from the questionable student paper. There's a good chance the phrase will pop up! Explore articles on plagiarism and check out sites that students might use to copy essays.

A number of companies such as Turnitin produce software for detecting plagiarized projects. However there are also free services and software such as The Plagiarism Resource Site.

General Resources on Plagiarism

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