Full Circle Resource Kits

Getting StartedDatabase ChoicesQuestion to QueryOperatorsHoming InBrowsingWeb 2.0EvaluationEthical Use

Just Added

Home > Ethical Use > Featured Article

Ethical Use

By Dennis O'Connor

Young man holds a scale


Finding the Balance: Copyright and Fair Use.

In this issue of the Full Circle Resource Kit we explore how to teach Copyright and Educational Fair Use.  We hope the articles, games, assessments, references and lesson ideas you find here will help you better understanding how ethically to use all kinds of digital information.  We concentrate on key issues for educators and provide a variety of resources to help you check your understanding while creating plans to teach this essential area of 21st Century Information Fluency.

As educators, we must model ethical use of digital materials.  However, it is difficult to set the right example if we are uncertain about best practices. The problem is compounded because copyright laws and rules of educational fair use are complex and constantly evolving.


What about Fair Use?

If you ask a lawyer about educational fair use, you get a narrow, restrictive, complex, institutionally ‘safe’ admonition.

If you ask a documentary filmmaker about fair use you learn about the protections given to “criticism, commentary, news reporting and free speech.”

For educators, fair use includes the same rights as documentary filmmakers and also protects “scholarship and multiple copies for classroom use.”

Documentary film makers offer a model for action with a community created Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use.  As the law relating to media use evolves a community derived statement of best practices is considered a powerful legal argument. This proactive stand expands the concept of fair use and helps protect free speech. Media Educators lead the fight to broaden the application of Educational Fair Use in traditional school settings. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Expression Policy Project are striving to expand our rights and protect our freedom to ethically use copyrighted materials for educational purposes.


It's important to understand that fair use doctrines, and statements of best practices are not law, only guidelines that change over time. When it comes to the law we have the Copyright Law of the United States and The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act). The Copyright Law applies to "original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression" (source). The TEACH Act was written to address the needs of distance education. You may initially say, “Oh that doesn’t apply to me. I don’t teach online!”  However, like the Copyright Law, the TEACH Act applies to all educators who use digital materials for instruction.  If you teach online, use a course management system in a hybrid environment, access databases for research projects, copy a photo from Flickr into you blog, search the Internet for lesson plans, show video taped or dvd movies in your classroom, or use books on tape in your reading program,  the TEACH Act applies to you!

What's an Educator To Do?

Young woman keeps her balance

Of course modeling ethical behavior isn’t enough. We must teach it as well. So how does this all play out in our schools and classroom? It comes down to foundation concepts for teachers and students:

Paraphrasing vs. Copying

Citation of Sources

Intellectual property

Educational Fair Use


In a web 2.0 environment built on free sharing of ideas, it’s important to share your own ideas. It is equally important to know how ethically to share the intellectual property of others.  All of the articles in this issue of the Full Circle Resource Kit are designed to help you do just that: be an ethical user of digital information

In This Kit …

full circle symbol Features:

Dr. Carol Simpson of the University of Northern Texas is interviewed by Dan Balzer in a podcast about copyright law and the classroom. 

Author Karl Fogel interviews random people on the street about the purpose of copyright.  See what the public has to say in this YouTube Video!  This isn’t the typical Jay Leno fool on the street point of view! (We found Karl's work on the Internet and thought it was important enough to include. Consider checking out his views on copyright and Web 2.0.)

full circle symbol Curriculum:

Secondary Searching is an advanced game plan to help you track down all of the information needed for a complete citation. Our Action Zone Lessons column provides advice (and answer keys) on how to use our Information Fluency Skills games in your classroom. Our Quick Pick gives you compact guide to the 'rule of thumb' Four Factor Fair Use Test.

full circle symbol Action Zone:

The Action Zone provides you with many new learning game opportunities created by the fluent mind of Dr. Carl Heine:  The Sorting Hat Search challenges you to try secondary searching by digging within a site to find citation specific information. In this issue we debut three new Interactive MicroModule Companions: Copyright Companion , Citation Companion , and Plagiarism Companions.  Each can be used as a tutorial and to assess student skills in secondary searching and citing resources properly.  One of the toughest things to teach students is the differences between Paraphrasing and Plagiarizing.  Several of these new games provide much needed practice in this critical area.  If you have ever struggled to teach the difference between paraphrasing and plagiarizing, this game is for you!

full circle symbol Assessment:

Many of you are familiar with our online Citation Wizard.  In this issue we have an Assessment Guide to help you integrate citation creation into your lesson plans. (You will find a convenient answer sheet here as well!) The guide explains how to use the new online Citation Assessment based on the Citation Wizard. This assessment simulates creating two citations for web based materials.  We also have another QuickTopic Forum that asks: How do you Teach Ethical Use?  Let us hear your voices! 

full circle symbol Web Resources:

We continue to expand and refine our Information Fluency Glossary of Terms and Resource Kit Indices with each issue of the Full Circle Resource Kit. Finally we have added annotated references to free web resources to help you understand Copyright, Citation, Educational Fair Use, and Plagiarism issues. 

Back to Previous Page