Can you install personal software on a school computer, upload a photograph to your class Web site, or copy a descriptive link from another site? Part 3 of the Education World series on copyright answers those questions and more! Included: How to avoid the most common mistakes when using technology resources.
In Copyrights and Copying Wrongs, Part 1 of this Education World series on copyright, we learned that the only tangible works that can be copied without asking permission or considering fair use guidelines are works in the public domain and works that are not copyright protected.
If you need more detail about the works that fall into those categories, be sure to reread Part 1.
The guidelines for public domain and copyright protected works predate many of the new technologies used in schools today, so you won't find them in lists of copyright dos and don'ts. Usually, you'll have to rely instead on common sense and the right intent when determining what technology resources you and your students can use. We can, however, clear up a few of the most common misconceptions!
Repeat after me:
The Internet is not in the public domain. The Internet is not in the public domain. The Internet is NOT in the public domain.
Adrift in the Public Domain, in part 1 of the Education World series on copyright, provides a complete list of public domain resources. Notice that the Internet is not on that list. Most Web pages -- including the information on them and the code used to create them -- are protected by copyright law.
As a general rule, a good way to determine whether a multimedia resource is copyright protected or in the public domain is to relate it as closely as possible to a print resource. If publications created by the U.S. government are in the public domain, for example, so is information provided at U.S. government Web sites. If a book title cannot be copyrighted, it's safe to assume that the title of a Web page cannot be copyrighted.
Not every Internet resource can be related to a corresponding print resource, however. Erroneously posting copyrighted material to your own Web site carries even greater risks than innocently using copyrighted material in your classroom. If you plan to post work you have not created to your Web site, you should avoid
Educators also should keep in mind that works posted on other sites might not have been posted by the copyright owner or with the copyright owner's permission. Just because a copyrighted work is already posted on the Web doesn't mean it's there legally. Even sites that have obtained the required permission may not have the right to transfer that permission to you. Always get permission to use a copyrighted online work from the owner of that work, not from a secondary source. If you plan to use the work online, be sure to get permission to use the work electronically. Print rights and electronic rights are not the same thing.
Because copyright laws are mostly about money, you probably won't be accused of copyright infringement if the works you use are unlikely to bring financial gain to their creators. You may, however, still be accused of bad manners. Sometimes it's simply polite to ask permission, even if you're not legally required to do so! Asking permission is a good idea if you intend to
Repeat after me:
Freeware is not in the public domain. Freeware is not in the public domain. Freeware is NOT in the public domain.
All software, like all other tangible, original work, is copyrighted on creation. Because no piece of software has been in existence long enough to pass into the public domain, the only public domain software currently available is software that the owner has expressly relinquished to the public domain. Such software is usually clearly labeled.
Although public domain software is free, the reverse is not inevitably true. Most free software, or freeware, is not in the public domain. Using Software: A Guide to the Ethical and Legal Use of Software for Members of the Academic Community, from the University of Miami, offers the following overview of the three types of software not in the public domain.
1. Commercial software represents the majority of software purchased. In general, commercial software licenses stipulate that
2. Shareware software licenses allow purchasers to make and distribute copies of the software but demand that if, after testing the software, you adopt it for use, you must pay for it. In general, shareware software licenses stipulate that
Note that selling software as shareware is a marketing decision that does not change its copyright status.
3. Freeware is also covered by copyright and subject to the conditions defined by the holder of the copyright. In general, freeware software licenses stipulate that
What does all that mean to you? It means that copyright law protects at least some aspects of the program code, structure, content, organization, and user interface of virtually every computer software program. Although licensing agreements may vary, as a rule, you cannot
You may, depending on the licensing agreement, be permitted to
It's important to recognize, however, that when you buy or download software not in the public domain, you do not actually own the software; you merely acquire a license to use it in accordance with certain conditions. Because those conditions vary from program to program, you should carefully read the licensing agreement for every piece of software you use.
Remember, the best rule of thumb for using any work you did not create -- whether print or electronic -- is
When in doubt, ask permission!
Click here to return to the main page of the Education World copyright series.
Editor's Note: The information contained in this article is, to the best of our knowledge, correct and up-to-date. Copyright laws and the circumstances surrounding the use of copyrighted materials can be difficult to interpret, however, and information in this article should not be construed as legal advice.
Article by Linda Starr
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