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Two Simple Tools to Test Copyright and Fair Use

posted: 9.3.09 by Traci Gardner

Copyright and fair use laws can be confusing to explain to students. I rounded up some resources earlier this year to help you discuss Intellectual Property Rights, but recently, I’ve found these two little tools from the Copyright Advisory Network that make the process even simpler to demonstrate to students:

Digital Slider

Digital Slider Screenshot

Just find the copyright information published in the front of a text and slide the red triangle in the Digital Slider to the right place. The tool will tell you whether the text is in copyright and whether you need to seek permission to use it in your own work. Simple and easy. If you can find the date of first publication, you can figure out whether the work is in copyright.

Exceptions for Educators

Exceptions for Instructors

That work you want to use in class falls under copyright, but you may still be able to use it. Answer the questions in the Exceptions for Educators tool and find out whether your purpose falls within fair use. Just answer some simple “yes” or “no” questions, and you’ll know!

These Flash resources still leave a good bit of thinking to the user. They help you make informed decisions, but they won’t make the decisions for you or the students you teach. That’s what I like about them. The user still has to decide what to do with the information the tools provide.

But that’s not what I think the best feature of the tools is. Copyright and fair use always seems so murky to me. I’m no law student — digging through the explanations of what does (and doesn’t) require permission always takes me out of my comfort zone. I’m never quite sure if there’s something I’m missing. For me, these two tools take some of the mystery out of figuring out copyright permissions. It really can be a fairly easy process if you have some basic information about the text you want to use. If the basic decision can be found on a simple slider, surely I can figure it out — and you and your students can too!

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Categories: Citing Sources, Research, Working with Sources
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