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What is Copyright?


When students violate copyright, they are stealing from the original copyright holder.


Guideline for staff manual

Students should first use their own work whenever possible. In instances in which is this not possible and the content is not covered under Fair Use, they should obtain copyright-free content or written permission from the copyright holder.


Aren’t there exemptions? What is fair use?

In some instances, the work in question may fall under fair use.

To use those creations, others need to have permission of the copyright owner or b able to show “fair use.”

Fair use, according to the Law of the Student Press, is not always easy to determine.

“Fair use” according to the book, “ can include uses for such purposes as ‘criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching…scholarship or research. Even if the use is for purposes of commentary or news reporting, courts will not automatically find that the  use is fair.”

Fair use is an important guideline. Written permission from the creator must be obtained before students use others’ materials. If the use is challenged, according to Law of the Student Press, courts would look at four factors to determine fair use:

  • The purpose and character of the use
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and portion of the portion use in relation to the whole of the work
  • The effect of the use on the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

If in doubt, get written permission from the copyright holder.

Guidelines from the Library of Congress found here.


Important items of note/application in student media:

If it’s not considered fair use, publication decision-makers could be sued for copyright infringement, receive notice demanding payment for use of the copyrighted work.

If it’s not considered fair use, student media could be sued for copyright infringement or receive a letter demanding payment for use of the copyrighted work.

And, if not done correctly, says Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, a way to violate the owner’s copyright. A violation several owners pursued.


Student best practice

If your students are commenting on the subject of the story or reviewing an item, product or action itself, their use is probably going to be considered a fair use and it should be fine. Attribution is ethically appropriate but it’s not legally required.

On the other hand, if students are use a meme, lip sync, image or video and audio tracks because they illustrate

something they want to say and they’re not engaged in some commentary about the original copyright work, it wouldn’t be a fair use, even if you attribute it.

In either case, attribution isn’t really a factor. Attributing a work to its source doesn’t avoid a copyright infringement claim.

Another potential copyright concern is with video dubs. Although a common event in some schools, video dubs need to be handled with legal and ethical care. It is essential, if the product is to go on the web, to follow all copyright requirements.


Where to find copyright-free materials:

Need copyright-free materials? Here are some links:

Remember, though, this warning info from the Student Press Law Center: “If material is “too good to be true,” chances are that it is. It’s not difficult for a prankster to upload other people’s work to the web and claim that the material is ‘free.’

10 Resources for Copyright and Royalty Free Media | The Tech Savvy …

Public Domain Material: Images, Audio, Scores & Books

MILI Copyright Wiki / Links to Copyright-Free Materials

Creative Commons


More SPRC materials:

Press Rights Minute: Creative Commons Licensing:  Content licensed under Creative Commons offers a solution for finding images online to use in student media, as long as users provide attribution to the creator and follow the guidelines outlined for the particular license used.

Press Rights Minute – Fair Use – When is it okay to use work created by someone else, such as a photo? Here are the criteria that must be met for educational purposes as well as some other important considerations. Remember — if you didn’t create it, get permission from the person who did.

Press Rights Minute – Using photos from social media: Using images from social media raises a number of concerns, from possible copyright violations to ethical issues regarding verification and credibility.

Article: Publishing memes also means knowing copyright rules  Entertainment. Political statements. A way to comment on issues, events, people.And, if not done correctly, says Mark Goodman, Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism, a way to violate the owner’s copyright. A violation several owners pursued.



Want to know even more? See these Student Press Law Center links: