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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Can I Copy This for My Students?

Clearing up some copyright misconceptions.

Do you know if it’s legal for teachers to copy pages out of books for their students? Many educators and school librarians don’t know the answer, according to a recent survey conducted by the American Library Association ( The survey showed that a majority of educators have a fear of copyright litigation, which leads them to make overly cautious decisions about the learning materials they bring into their classrooms.

Following is an interview on common copyright misperceptions with Carrie Russell, director of the American Library Association’s Program on Public Access to Information, and author of the book Complete Copyright for K–12 Librarians and Educators, an illustrated guide that teaches educators and school librarians how to exercise their rights in schools.

What is the purpose of the copyright law?
“Many believe that the purpose of the copyright law is to financially reward authors and other creators. In truth, the purpose is the betterment of society by advancing learning. Yes, authors should be paid, but payment is not the purpose. Think of it as a means to an end. By distributing their work to the public (by sale, rental or some other mechanism), authors and other creators provide access to creative works which benefit the public. Of utmost importance to the founders of our country was the distribution of information to the public so citizens would learn, understand and contribute to the democratic nation.”

Can an educator show an entire film in the classroom?
“Yes, as long as the copy being used is lawfully obtained. Congress created this exception in the law to educators because, again, they were trying to make the spread of information as broad as possible. So, uses that advance learning are favored. Uses that do not advance learning—such as showing a feature film as a reward—are not favored. Generally, those uses require prior permission and a fee, even when there is no profit motive.”

Can students use music in their presentations?
“Absolutely! Students can use any music in their student presentations even if it is protected by copyright, but keep it in the classroom! Permission may be required if the presentation occurs elsewhere, such as on YouTube. Including materials that may be protected by copyright is expected in the educational setting. Of course, including other protected works in a presentation to the extent that the student does not provide any of her own work is a problem. Think balance when considering copyright.”

What about “fair use guidelines” which dictate only a portion of a work can be copied?
“The guidelines are arbitrary rules that do not have the force and effect of law. Sometimes using a larger portion or, when necessary, the entire work can be fair use. The opposite also is true. Small portions might rise to infringement depending on the situation. Making copyright decisions should be based on fair use and the situation at hand.”

What is the difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism?
“Plagiarism is taking credit for another person’s work. Passing off a work assignment by copying another work is plagiarism. Copyright infringement is breaking the law by using protected works in ways that are not fair. Avoiding a sale of a work by making copies is a clear example of this. Sometimes plagiarism occurs at the same time as copyright infringement but sometimes not. For instance, if a student copies a stage script and claims ownership, we have plagiarism and infringement. When a student claims a work as their own, but the work is not protected by copyright, there is only plagiarism. In any case, all works used in a student assignment or presentation must be cited.”


What is fair use?
The Fair Use Doctrine is one of the most important limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. It allows that copyright can be infringed because strict application of the law impedes the production and dissemination of works to the public. The Fair Use Doctrine was added as Section 107 of The Copyright Act of 1976 and was based on a history of judicial decisions that recognized that unauthorized infringements of copyright were “fair uses.”—    Sec. 107. Limitations on exclusive rights:

Fair use
The fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

1.  The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

2.  The nature of the copyrighted work;

3.  The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

4.  The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.


Poll: Parents Back Public Schools

A new poll, taken in July, has found that parents across the country overwhelmingly believe that public schools are the most important institutions in their communities, and supporting strong public schools should be a top priority for our nation.

In addition, those parents rejected trendy “reforms,” such as choice, charters and vouchers, according to the poll; 77 percent of those interviewed said policymakers should instead focus on supporting and strengthening neighborhood public schools. The poll, conducted by Hart Research Associates, also found that 68 percent of parents are satisfied with their children’s public schools; 71 percent think their children’s teachers are doing a good or excellent job; 68 percent believe having a good neighborhood school is more important than having a choice of schools to select from; and 61 percent of parents disapprove of closing down so-called “low performing” schools and assigning the children to other schools.


Survey: Teachers Get Bullied, Too

According to the 2010 National Survey of Violence Against Teachers, just a bit over half (50.9 percent) of K-12 teachers reported at least one kind of victimization within the last year, by students, parents or colleagues. Nearly half of all teachers experienced at least one episode of harassment, more than one-third experienced property offenses, and over one-quarter reported physical attacks. In addition, 1 in 5 teachers reported being victimized at least once in all three of those ways.

The most frequent harassment incidents were obscene remarks or gestures, verbal threats, and intimidation. For property offenses, both theft and damage to personal property were common. In physical attacks, teachers most commonly reported objects being thrown at them (22.9 percent) and being physically attacked without requiring a doctor’s care.

Cyber-bullying of school staff is also on the rise which, in addition to the obvious psychological harm, can also cost schools and school employees lost wages, diminished classroom productivity, litigation, and negative publicity for the school.

The survey was conducted by the American Psychological Association.


How Can a GPS Help You? Check This and See

The Great Public Schools (GPS) Network is a free resource from the National Education Association, and it offers educators all kinds of possibilities. You can use GPS Network online to communicate with members across the country and discuss such important, practical issues as state standards, best instructional practices, and educational leadership. The network is open to all educators, and is a great platform for collaboration, advocacy and organizing.

 The site offers you a chance to:
• Collaborate with colleagues on professional issues;
• Find and share effective resources;
• Stay informed by reading education blogs and current news;
• Share your opinions through “Today’s Poll”;
• Learn to use practical tools offered by NEA and partner organizations; and
• Participate in events of interest.
You can find the GPS Network at


A New Resource for ESP Members

The NEA recently launched the ESP Virtual Career Resource Center, which provides ESP members with a number of resources on issues such as bullying, health care, privatization, school transportation, green schools, worker health and safety, and more. The ESP Resource Center also includes guides on clerical training programs, resume writing, parapro assessment resources and much more.

Log on to to learn more.

School Building Design:  A Boost to STEM Education?

According to some educators and architects, a school building’s design – particularly in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education – can play an integral role in student success.

“Science education has always had a dramatic impact on educational facility designs,” says John Missell, vice president for Spectrum Design, a Virginia-based architecture and engineering firm. “But what’s generating increased discussion specifically around STEM and facility design is the realization that U.S. students are increasingly not choosing careers in fields that require a solid STEM background, such as medicine or engineering.”

Building design and engineering to support STEM initiatives don’t follow a prescribed set of construction requirements, Missell says, but rather start with an awareness of the importance of STEM in everyday life and whether the facility design – present or proposed –supports the learning environment.

In some cases, “We’re still applying yesterday’s rules to tomorrow’s children,” Missell says. “Schools are still designed for control and movement of large quantities of children. The long-term trend is the acknowledgement that buildings need to create a multifaceted platform for learning with the understanding that this learning happens in many venues.”

As an example, he says, more student work is being done in small groups: “Sometimes, the delightful incidental space in a building can be a powerful setting for communication and the teaching and learning process.

Spectrum Design’s approach to integrating building design with STEM initiatives – whether for new construction or renovations – involves three key principles: maximum flexibility, technology infrastructure, and connection to the natural environment.

Maximum flexibility focuses on designing science teaching spaces that embrace different learning configurations, from small- and large-group instruction to individualized learning to interdisciplinary team teaching, as well as traditional classroom and laboratory settings.

Technology infrastructure can be something as simple as labs that can serve as wireless networks to support local networking or distance learning without affecting the physical structure. 

It has long been considered essential to introduce natural day lighting into educational spaces, with the belief being that where there is a connection to the environment there is an enhanced student outcome. Outdoor environmental classrooms, amphitheaters, horticultural and earth science labs, and greenhouses can all be part of the strategy.

For more information, visit Spectrum’s website at
  --by Richard Ellis, Jr., a writer based in Rocky Mount, VA.


Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

Think your students might enjoy some of these undercover virtual field trips, created by the Washington, D.C.-based International Spy Museum?:

• Cuban Missile Crisis Simulation: Could your class head off nuclear war?
• Operation Code Cracker:  Will you students be able to decipher messages before it’s too late?
• The Spy’s Eye View: Meet a real CIA agent and hear about some of his adventures.
• Spy Science, Operation STEM:  Learn the science behind some espionage gadgets.

For more information, visit the International Spy Museum’s website at, and click on “Education & Programs.”



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