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5 Basic copyright rules for students and teachers

For teachers, the freedom to create their content and use it in the classroom is a great experience. Each teacher has their own manner of tackling a subject, and when allowed to use their creativity, they feel more motivated and even empowered.

Granted, textbooks have their advantages as well:

  • they were created by renowned specialists;
  • ideally, the methods used are chosen based on solid scientific research;
  • the content is in line with standardized tests.

However brilliant as a textbook may be, a certain approach is not always in line either with the teacher’s view or the students’ needs. This is where content creation comes to fill in the gap, as it helps both students and teachers address the learning process in a personalized manner, which takes into account the unique and special context of each classroom.

Although the idea of designing your own content might seem the ideal solution in some teaching contexts, teachers and students should know that not all online content can be used freely.

5 Copyright rules for students and teachers

Copyright laws regulate the use of internet content as well. So let's explore five copyright rules that every student and teacher should know by heart:

  1. Not all images on the internet can be used without permission

    Check the copyright regime of images that you want to include in your materials. If you use Google Images, the Usage Rights filter is an indispensable tool that will help you find the right image with the appropriate copyright regime. Select Creative Commons licenses so you'll only see photos that are subject to free distribution. 

    Many sites offer free images (Pexels, Unsplash are some of the many that come to mind), so use them to stay on the safe side.

    Read more: 8 Free photo sources teachers can use for online courses

  2. It is possible to download YouTube videos, but it's against YouTube’s Terms of Service

    There are many options to download YouTube videos. It might come in handy for some teachers, especially when the Internet connection is very slow, but… bear in mind that YouTube may deactivate your account if they catch you doing this.

    Make sure you read the Terms of Service of any video hosting platform carefully before downloading any content.

  3. Showing a full-length video in the classroom may be against copyright law

    Some teachers know it, but they do it anyway. Obviously, watching a movie in the classroom might prove useful, especially in cultural studies, literature, or foreign language classes, just to name a few. But it comes with a price (and quite a heavy one).

    For instance, Disney has a strict anti-piracy policy, and it encourages people to report possible copyright violations.

    Encourage students to see the movie at home if they can, and show only a few fragments in the classroom.

  4. Creative Commons materials may be subject to some copyright rules

    Make sure that you follow the copyright law and give proper credit to authors. They have put a lot of work into designing the materials, so their efforts should be acknowledged.

    Check the types of licenses offered by Creative Commons and ensure that you adequately use all materials. When in doubt, go to their FAQ page and follow the instructions for each situation.

    Read more: What every teacher must know about copyright for online lessons

  5. Give credit correctly

    You wouldn’t think about not mentioning an author in an academic paper if you use their ideas (or so we hope). The same goes for online content. The best way to give credit is to mention the author, the title of the work, the source (the link and the publication date), and the license type. It will help others identify the author and give proper credit as well.

    Your school learning management system (LMS) or any other platform you’re using to store learning materials and building classes might allow you to add a description for each item you upload, which is perfect for crediting original authors.

Concluding remarks

Teachers want to bring a fresh, personal touch to their classes. While it is inspiring to see new ideas and approaches in school, make sure that you mention the work of those who have helped you put that idea into practice. It takes hours to wait for the proper light, take a perfect picture, and edit it. The same goes for other content types. Make sure that this work is appropriately acknowledged.

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