Can I?

Use this in my classroom?

Copyright is something that everyone needs to know about.

If I find it on Google, does that mean I can use it?  The immediate answer should be “not necessarily”.  You need to know…

… about copyright in the Canadian context.  How many times do you hear people talk about “fair use”.  Do they really understand that that isn’t a Canadian legal term for the use of other’s materials?  Just ask them what “fair dealing” is and you have a great conversation starter.

Then, send them to this terrific website from the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada.

It’s designed to let you drill down with exactly the type of content that you wish to use.

But don’t just stop at the tool.  From pull down menus, you’ll find all kinds of original resources.  In particular, this presentation (in PDF format) really digs deeply into the concepts.

Knowing how different types of media may be used is very important and this is a topic all need to address.  In terms of students, they need to know where they stand as well.  I’ve always maintained that they should create their own content where possible.  As we all know, there are alternatives when that isn’t possible.

Most producers of content will show their expectations with respect to copyright wherever possible.

This blog?

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4 thoughts on “Can I?

  1. As educators, another important aspect in copyright discussions is to explore the underlying concept of “copyright” itself. Copyright is a social contract between society and creators, wherein society puts forth for those creators a (formerly actual royal) monopoly on the sale of their works for them to benefit from, protected by the immense legislative, judicial and enforcement resources of the crown (or government) for a “limited time” (the phrasing of the U.S. Constitution), in return for the eventual unlimited use of the artistic work by the public that so protected that work for the initial period. The taxes and rights granted by the people protect the work for that limited time in exchange for society as a whole later being able to enjoy and use the work in the public domain.

    Copyrights were first declared by Queen Anne (, and later specifically provided for in the U.S. Constitution (, Canada (, and other countries.

    An excellent and important discussion point with students, who will be the future generations of their own society, might include a question like, “What would a reasonable limited time” be, to be able to use an artist’s work without cost, in exchange for protecting their work at some expense to society?

    Or, should all creative works be more like a royal line, extending forever, to benefit only the heirs of the artist forever into the future? What would be the practicalities of distributing the revenue from artistic works (which is why those fees are called royalties) as the family tree of descendants grows ever larger? What happens to documentary videos, or works of literature, or songs, when the artist has no heirs? Who will determine that and how much will it cost to carry out the determination? When there are heirs, who should pay the administrative fees of collecting and distributing those royalties?

    What would a good system be, and how does that line up with the system currently in use, as it was in the past, or as it might be in the future? Are take-down notices on YouTube (for example) always fair and correct? Is the process of contesting those take-down orders just, or favor one side or the other (society/individual or artist/corporation)? Does the current discussion of copyright talk only of the instances of abuse by “pirating”, or does it also include discussions of abuse by copyright holders and those who pretend to hold a copyright (see Warner Brothers, “Happy Birthday”).

    This is an important part of any digital citizenship discussion, and a good opportunity to conduct with students the process that citizenship studies of any kind should include the discussion of the reasons and rationale for any rights of the people, not just their obligations to a greater power.


    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, Roger. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and omit the very important aspect of value of things to future generations. What might be of value to some would be worthless to others. Or, it might be of increased value. It’s definitely worth a serious consideration.


  2. It’s also worth noting that “fair use” limits educational use pretty much to “within the four walls of the classroom”. All those shared YouTube videos, webpages, padlets, Vimeos, Prezis, etc? Federal felonies enforced by Homeland Security (in the U.S.). Good place to start when thinking about what a Digital Citizenship curriculum should really include. Is it to “wink” at the law and ignore it, pretend to be following it (but not), or advocate for more digital citizen-friendly laws as soon as possible? Food for thought.

    (and Doug – thank you for pointing out that Canada doesn’t use the regulations for Fair Use of the U.S., but laws based on “Fair Dealing” of British Common Law.)


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