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Copyright and Fair Use

Written by Troy Hicks
February 28, 2011

Teachers Teaching Teachers – 1/27/10 – “Renee Hobbs and Troy Hicks Discuss Fair Use”

Renee Hobbs, Troy Hicks, and Chris Sloan. Hosted by Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim.

In this episode, Renee and I talk about her work related to the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education as well as her book, Copyright Clarity.  We discuss samples of student work and how educators can think about the process of applying principles of fair use as they help their students craft digital writing. Chris began with the question, “What can you use and what can’t you use when it comes to copyrighted material?” and the conversation moves forward from there. 

6:20 – 10:20
Chris asks Renee to describe the process that led Renee and her colleagues to create the  Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education. She discusses the ways that teachers were invited into the work and how they shared their understandings of copyright and fair use, including the development of ten hypothetical scenarios involving copyright and fair use

11:25 – 12:20

Renee responds to a concern from Susan about how to bring up this conversation with other teachers, discussing how teachers are inclined to share and it is the media industry that has frightened teachers into not sharing at all.

“The culture of teaching is a culture that’s built on sharing. When you find something good you share it, right? … where we start with teachers for whom this isn’t even on the radar screen, is to acknowledge how much sharing is a part of the ethic at the heart of what we do as educators… Sharing is not a bad thing. sharing is not stealing.” – Renee Hobbs


12:20 – 15:30

Chris prompts Troy to talk about his thinking related to fair use and how it changed during the writing of his book, The Digital Writing Workshop, and how Paul, Chris, and Renee have influenced his thinking. 

16:20 – 20:20

Renee talks about how educators’ understanding of copyright law has deepened over the years, and the influence of Creative Commons licensing on users’ rights. She describes how copyright protects both authors’ rights, and users’ rights, too. Then Chris discusses how understanding copyright is a part of digital citizenship. Renee follows up by discussing a reasoning process for determining fair use. 

“As our understanding of the law has deepened… what happened to many of us educators is that copyright was never ever on the agenda, that all of a sudden there was all this fear and anxiety… and there was this great sense that we might be violating [the law]. And, then, all of a sudden came a savior to rescue us, Creative Commons, and we said there’s the answer to our problems. It is important for your listeners to understand that Creative Commons is a licensing scheme, and that is basically is a way that owners can formally grant permission for others to use their work. And a licensing scheme is another way of asking permission. It’s another kind of author right. And while it’s wonderful that the Creative Commons licensing gives us users a lot more flexibility in how we can use materials that doesn’t take away or diminish… our user rights. Because remember that the purpose of copyright is to promote creativity and the spread of knowledge. The protection of owner’s rights is only one half of the bargain that is at the heart of copyright law. The other half of that bargain is fair use.” – Renee Hobbs


20:52 – 31:30

In this extended segment, Paul prompts Troy and Renee into a discussion of the pedagogical and legal issues related to using digital media and inline linking as a part of understanding ownership and authorship, as well as critical thinking and composing. Renee also talks about citing sources as an ethical, not legal obligation, then Troy elaborates on that idea as a teacher of writing and Renee replies about the way she looks at different academic discourse communities and norms of attribution, as well as ways to approach the integration of copyrighted materials through a genre-based lens. Troy follows with a quick discussion of one way to cite a PSA by posting a video without citations, but then citing your sources on a webpage related to the video. 

“It turns out that, from a legal point of view, citing your sources doesn’t have anything to do with the law… Whether and how we cite sources is a matter of professional obligation within a discourse community and there are different norms within different discourse communities about attribution, or citing one’s sources. But, citing sources doesn’t have anything to do with copyright because citing sources is an ethical obligation, where as copyright is a legal obligation.” – Renee Hobbs

“When it comes down to the legal issues, that idea of ‘transformativeness’ is really about asking questions that we English teachers are really good at asking. ‘What’s your purpose? Why did you use the other person’s material? How did your use of the material change the syntax of the communicative function? And, did you used just as much as you needed, or are you repeating, or rebroadcasting, or retransmitting and in some way competing with the person who created the original materials? Those are questions that are basically at the heart of the way we English teachers think about helping students understand their purpose, their audience, and their goals… once teachers have a deep understanding of copyright and fair use, I think it’s pretty easy for them to integrate that into their teaching.” – Renee Hobbs


31:30 – 40:35

Renee, Chris, and Susan talk about how a photography project is a well-reasoned example of fair use of copyrighted materials. Does the use of the copyright material benefit society more than it hurts the copyright holder? They then go on to discuss the ways that students sharing their work and building on one another’s work is a part of a more open culture mediated by networks. 

40:50 – 46:36

Paul gives an example of how students would find images on Google and asks whether they really need to go through a fair use reasoning process, or if they can just use the images because it is a protected use of copyrighted material. Renee then elaborates on how students must move beyond simply retransmitting work, and make transformative use of it. She also discusses how fair use differs from piracy in that students must respect the rights of authors.

52:37 – 57:22

Paul shares an example of a student who has published a poem to Youth Voices and how she wants to protect her work, then Renee deconstructs this example in terms of her rights as an author and from the perspective of the rights of the users, too. Chris follows up with an example from his classroom and how students feel about other students building off of their original work. 

1:05:04 – 1:09:00

Paul sums up the show by citing an image taken by a sailor in the US Navy and relating it to what a student should do when using that image and reasoning fair use. Renee replies by discussing how the cluster of concepts related to copyright, fair use, the public domain and related images connects to this idea. the show closes with us discussing the ways that fair use can and should be taught over time and in context in our classrooms. Open TTT – January 27 2010.mp3



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