Back-to-school model copyright policy for digital media production in school

A model copyright policy helps students and educators make wise decisions when it comes to the use of copyrighted content in digital media production

It's back-to-school time, and every teacher and student, without exception, will make use of copyrighted materials for teaching and learning. Today, students and teachers select, edit and use copyrighted content in all aspects of teaching, from kindergarten to graduate school. More and more, students are composing with language, images and digital content as part of their own academic and creative work.

School administrators, teachers and students may need to update their policies on copyright and fair use. Instruction about copyright is now mandated at the state and federal level, but many schools have policies from the 1980s or even earlier. Some policies are written so legalistically that few teachers or students can understand them. Others are written so narrowly that they limit the true legal rights of students and teachers. Many school districts simply provide no meaningful information to students or teachers about the scope of the rights and responsibilities under the law.

It's important for school leaders to update policies and procedures to reflect changes in the law and changes in society that affect the use of copyrighted materials for digital learning. To support school leaders, the Media Education Lab is making freely available a 4-page model copyright policy for using copyrighted materials in digital media production. 

Written in plan English, the policy explains the purpose of copyright law and gives specific guidance for teachers and students on the appropriate use of copyrighted materials for teaching and learning, especially in relation to digital learning. "Today, an understanding of copyright is essential for every educator and every student," says Renee Hobbs, a professor of communication at Temple University and author of the book, Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning. "A model policy helps school leaders ensure that the whole community appreciates and respects the fundamental role of copyright and fair use in education."