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Friday, June 28, 2013

Fair Use, Copyright, and Educational Blogging

Last night someone on Twitter asked me for advice about how to respond to discovering that his blog posts were being re-used without permission. This morning I read Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano's post No! You Can't Just Take It. In that post Silvia expresses her frustration with teachers who take articles and graphics from her blog without permission, without giving attribution, and then use those materials as their own. Unfortunately, these are situations that I've dealt with a lot over the last five plus years. If you find yourself in a similar situation in which you discover someone taking and using your materials without permission, I have a couple of pieces of advice on how to handle it. You can find all my advice on the topic in my post What To Do When Your Work Is Plagiarized.

At the end of her post No! You Can't Just Take It Silvia asks what can be done to stop the practice of people taking materials from blog under the belief that Fair Use means teachers can just take and use things they find online. My response is to first educate people about what Fair Use really means. Two good sources of information on this topic are Copyright On Campus and Wes Fryer's Copyright for Educators.

Fair Use does give educators more liberty to use copyrighted materials than the general public has. However, it doesn't mean that you can just take anything or copy anything. Think about how a book publisher would respond if you made fifty copies of a book, distributed those to your students, and just said "well it's for education so it's Fair Use." Publishers make money by selling books. Likewise, many education bloggers make money through advertising and through supporting their written materials with workshops. When you copy and paste their materials and redistribute them without permission, you're negatively impacting that blogger's earning potential. And even if the blogger isn't trying to make money, you still can't copy and paste without permission. A practice that I see a lot is copying and pasting entire posts then placing a small link to the original. When done without permission that practice isn't okay either. In short, unless it's clearly labeled as public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license, ask permission before using someone's materials.

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