Copying Right and Copying Wrong with Web 2.0 Tools in the Teacher Education and Communications Classrooms

Sep. 01, 2010

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 10(3), 257-274.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Students today work and play in a mediated environment, and are the heaviest consumers of the cultural products of that environment. However, today’s youth are not only media content consumers but also content creators.

Understanding copyright as it impacts online communication and publishing with Web 2.0 tools on open access networks must become an important part of literacy and communication education in today’s Information Age (Aufderheide & Jaszi, 2007).

In this article, the authors describe an approach they have employed in their English education and communications classrooms to address this need.

The Problem of Transformative Use

The authors refer to realm of fair use. The authors present the four-pronged fair use rubric from U.S. copyright law:
• the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
; • the nature of the copyrighted work;
• the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
• the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. (U.S. Copyright Office, 2009, §107).

Educating Teachers and Students in Web 2.0 Copyright

Initially, the authors made a conscious effort to infuse copyright and fair use topics into their curricula in both English education and communications.

The authors' overall approach to the topic is usually a combination of a brief problem-solving activity through scenario analysis and a lecture. The purpose of these methods is threefold:
(a) to define and clarify the terms;
(b) to check students’ understanding of these terms in the context of Web 2.0 applications and their web-based dissemination; and
(c) to prepare them for the legal use of material accessed online in their own artistic creations with Web 2.0 tools.

The authors next present an analysis of two scenarios, with accompanying explanations to illustrate the overall problem-solving approach to teaching copyright with Web 2.0 in their classrooms.

The authors also discuss alternatives to the use of copyright-protected material.
Alternative 1: Create Your Own Material
When students create their own audio and video work, the authors urge them to secure releases when their work includes the image or likeness of other people.

Alternative 2: Use Others’ Work Judiciously
This option requires the students to acknowledge the authors whose work is being used and secure releases and licenses from these authors. When students cannot establish the authorship of a work in hand, they are advised not to use it. Fortunately, a powerful resource exists that permits students to freely use preexisting work that has been created specifically to facilitate this secondary use. It is called Creative Commons.


The authors conclude that teaching copyright and fair use principles, particularly in the context of Web 2.0 tools for communication and information dissemination is not only a necessity but also a way of preparing our students for creative expression in the information and digital technology age. This knowledge will prepare them for responsible and ethical citizenship and effective participation in the emerging global economy for the future.

Aufderheide, P., & Jaszi, P. (2007). Unauthorized: The copyright conundrum in participatory video. Retrieved from The Center for Social Media website.

U.S. Copyright Office. (2009, October). Copyright law of the United States of America and related laws contained in Title 17 of the United States code (Circular 92). Retrieved from Copyright Law of the United States.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2012