What should I know about Copyright and Fair Use?

The Internet makes it very easy to acquire and copy all sorts of creative works, and to share them with students for course-related purposes. But you should always carefully consider, before you share (even in a password-protected environment), whether you have the right to copy and share anything — text, images, audio, video, etc. —  that might be protected by U.S. Copyright law.

What is Copyright?
The U.S. Copyright law gives the creators of “original works of authorship” the right to reproduce and distribute, perform, or display their creations publicly; or grant someone else permission to do so. What does that mean to you as an instructor? If you’re planning to incorporate someone else’s work into your course, you need to know the status of the copyright.

What is Fair Use?
Fair Use is not a law governing whether or how you can use copyrighted material. Rather, it is a set of factors by which you can justify your use of copyrighted materials without obtaining permission from the copyright holder. In brief, the factors are:

  1. Purpose and character of the use (teaching, scholarship, research, non-profit, personal use)
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work (factual, published)
  3. Amount and substantiality of portion used (small amount relative to the entire work)
  4. Effect on the potential market for the work (original is out of print or unavailable; there is no ready market for permissions; reasonable attempts to obtain a copy or permission to copy have been documented)

For a complete analysis, go to CUNY Fair Use Analysis, from which the above is excerpted.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask: the CUNY Copyright Committee is one group to contact (copyrightOLS@mail.cuny.edu). You can also contact Simone Yearwood, Access Services Librarian in the Rosenthal Library at Queens College (simone.yearwood@qc.cuny.edu).

Additional resources:
(C)opyright @ CUNY, especially their page For Faculty, which provides examples of dos and don’ts
Copyright basics
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries from the Association of Research Libraries (ARL)
Copyright Law of the United States of America
The Direction Of Fair Use For Education: New Law And New Possibilities (Educause webinar on recent Fair Use cases)
Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video

The Past, Present, and Future of Ownership (On the Media)
A Fair(y) Use Tale, created by Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University

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What is Netiquette and why should I teach it?

We expect our students to use appropriate language when participating in an in-class discussion or talking to us during office hours, when answering written questions on an exam or writing up a term paper. We know that our students don’t talk to their professors the same way they talk to their close friends, and we acknowledge that one of the great challenges in higher education is bringing students up to speed with the discourse conventions for our particular disciplines: teaching students to speak and write as scientists or sociologists or literary critics.

But we have all experienced how the anonymity of cyberspace sometimes makes people forget expectations for communication. (The Internet is kind of a weird place.) And, despite many college students’ familiarity with social media, they need to be reminded of the differences between casual social interactions and academic communications, be these in the form of emails, blog posts, or discussion forum posts. In fact, the best way to instigate the kind of communication you want to see in your students is to offer clear expectations. Just like you might provide a style sheet when assigning a paper for a class, consider offering your students guidelines for online communication, and model your expectations with them in all your communications with your class.

Guidelines for online behavior vary quite a bit depending on the context, but all Netiquette recommendations have a few basics in common:

  • Typing in all caps is the equivalent of shouting, so don’t do it.
  • Proofread your writing before sending or posting.
  • Respect other peoples’ privacy, time, and bandwidth.
  • “Lurk before you leap”: if you’re new to a blog or a forum, don’t post right away; look around a bit to understand the protocol.

If you don’t want to compose your own guidelines, you could ask your students to visit The Core Rules of Netiquette and take a netiquette quiz. Here are some additional resources that address issues of Netiquette:

Netiquette and Online Behavior (Loyola University Chicago Online)
Behaveyourself.com: Online Manners Matter
Beyond Emily: Post-ing Etiquette
Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship