Educators need to be aware of copyright laws and regulations in order to provide the best education for their students. The Copyright Act of 1976 is the main governing body of law (including several amendments) for copyrights, and prior to its implication the last copyright law was set in 1909. Under Section 102 of the Copyright Act, the protection of copyrights is extended to any original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium, either known or developed in the future. The section goes on to state that works protected by this include literary, musical, dramatic, pantomime, choreography, pictorial or graphic works, sculptures, motion pictures, audio recordings, and architectural works (added in 1990). This broadened the view of what work could be considered a copyright.
Copyright Act of 1976 Resources:
Educators need to follow particular guidelines in the application of copyright laws with understanding of what copyright laws protect and how they may be used. Copyrights are applied to "tangible works" and cannot be applied to ideas or facts. This, in addition to "fair use" practices, serves as a guideline to teachers and educators. Fair use is determined through the use of several statements meant to show that the use is fair, but since these "guides" to fair use are vague, responsibility defaults solely to the teacher for verifying the fair use of any tangible work. The purpose and character of the use of said copyrighted work is examined whether it is commercial or for non-profit use. Any educational use or research oriented use is considered fair use but no specific number of words or lines is designated as the maximum for fair use. These are ambiguous, but it gives educators and professionals a system to use for determining the fair use of works.
Guidelines for Educators:
Currently, obtaining permission and licensing for the use of copyrighted material is not a set standard. The best place to start is the CCC or Copyright Control Center, which offers a new online digital permission process as well as an established photocopy academic permission service. The local public library works with the CCC in most cases and will be able to help in obtaining the proper permissions. Should an educator want to work directly with the CCC, permission usually takes 24 to 36 hours (during the fall semester it will take longer due to a higher volume of requests). Image usage relates more to commercial uses and promotional products. There are a few resources for obtaining permission of image use for educational purposes. Typically the image's copyright owner will need to be contacted directly for use of the image under copyright law.
Copyright protection begins as soon as the work is tangible in a form that is perceivable directly or with a machine or device. That means as soon as it is published online, printed, typed, or painted, the work is copyrighted. It is not completely necessary to register a copyright, but doing so aids in the case of infringement by attaching ownership to the copyright. The Library of Congress handles all copyright registrations and is the source of all applicable forms for the process of registration. The copyright registration lasts for the entire life of the author plus 70 years and after that is considered public domain. The registration of a copyright may take place at any time during the life of the work. A non-refundable fee is associated with the registration process, and forms are available by mail or via an online form on the Library of Congress web site.
There is currently a raging debate regarding the digital arena of the Internet and the "fair use" portion of the Copyright Act. The debate questions how much is considered fair use and when that use becomes and infringement of copyright laws. Because the internet provides a fast connection to virtually any document published, it has become increasingly difficult to monitor all the uses of copyrighted work. Content filtering has been suggested, but its opponents claim that is a form of censorship and should not be used. This then poses the question of whether or not copyright laws should change or be amended to provide better protection for online publications of articles, music, images, research materials, and any other form of copyright work. No decision has been made yet, and it will probably take awhile before the world governments can agree on what is portable and what is not.
Debate on Digital Copyright Resources:
Understanding copyrights and copyright laws will help to provide quality education and resources to teachers and educators everywhere. Access to these resources lies solely in the hands of the educators and their ability to gain permission to use said resources; it is also imperative that the current state of digital technology and its effects on copyrights is understood.
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