Teacher Tap

Copyright Issues

What is intellectual property?

Is it okay to copy information such as words and pictures from a book, a CD-ROM, or the Internet?

Do I need to get permission to link to someone's website?

How can I tell if a student has copied their report from the web?

deskIntellectual Property

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.

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. In other words, many educators are willing to share information for free, but they

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. Interpretation of the laws regarding sharing of music is the basis for the Napster debate. Many people have inaccurate information about the copyright law. Check out the Copyright Myths to see if you know the facts.

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? Start your exploration by reading a great article on copyright at Education World. Students of all ages needs to know the copyright laws.

Consider designing activities for Copyright Awareness Week in March.

Try the Copyright Interactive from Cyberbee. How did you do?

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.

Mashups, Collages, and Derivative Works

Students often use the work of others as inspiration or as part of a larger work such as an electronic scrapbook. Be sure young people are aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Read Visual Arts Cases - Derivatives by Monica Corton and Nancy Wolff to learn more about the issues of derivative works created by students.


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

US Copyright Guidelines and the Law

Copyright Information

Copyright and Media

Student Resources

Internet Links and

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.

Copyright Permission

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:

Explore Copyright Issues

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.

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