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Last Spring, I successfully completed FLS 492: Seminar in Hispanic Studies. For Spanish majors at NC State, this is the most important class we take because it requires us to complete a substantial research project leading to a major research paper. My research  required designing data collection instruments, analyzing the data, and most importantly, consulting the current research on the topic I was researching to find support for the conclusions I was making. Without using the information made available by current researchers, I would not have had a foundation to base my work nor would I had known how to conduct my own research. The research I cited did not appear overnight, it represented the creative and original work of an individual in response to a simple observation about the world around them. The work created by researchers( or any individual)  represents the channeling of human capital into creating something that is designed to be consumed by other people or to inspire the creation of a new products, which often becomes an individuals chosen career and the source of their livelihood. Without the work of other researchers, I could not have completed by research.

Copyright is not recent development; unlike most of the topics we have discussed so far in the course, copyright pre-dates the digital age. An early description of the concept of copyright can be found in the U.S. Constitution where it is stated that Congress has the power “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveires”(U.S. Constitution. Art.1). Clearly, the Founding Fathers of the United States government recognized and valued the role of individual discovery and creation.  The individuals who were mentioned in this expressed power of Congress, represented the first generation of American creators whose work became the foundation for succeeding works. Novels, songs, images, slogans and other creative and innovative works became copyrighted as a  way to recognize the original creator(s) of a work and to acknowledge that work as the “first” among the different versions that followed it or drew inspiration from it. With mediums of communication expanding as the U.S. grew in size and demographics, the use of copyright granted someone the title of ownership over their work. Likewise, the goal of copyright today is to acknowledge an individuals creation of a work and to ensure that the work can be shared and used by other individuals to expand or enhance what has already been created. Additionally, copyright acknowledges the contribution of the original author or creator and protects their status as the creator.

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While copyright protects and restricts the use of  materials, it does not completely prevent other people,especially teachers,from using these materials to be shared in other works or with other people.  Fair Use, also called Fair Dealings in the infographic above, allows teachers to use copyrighted materials in the classroom as part of lessons and activities with a few general guidelines regulating their use. Fair Use, as defined in the infographic, allows teachers to use copyrighted materials for illustrative purposes within the context of their classrooms. Edutopia adds that Fair Use allows teachers to use material without having to contact the creator for permission, buy the material they want to use, or pay a fee for its usage. While this may seem like a narrow definition, this definition allow teachers to utilize various images, videos, and music to enhance their instruction and for students to create visually appealing products. Additionally, Fair Use allows teachers to reproduce instructional materials for use by students. The guiding principle of Fair Use, according to Ronnie Burt of the theedublogger, is that teachers can only use these materials within the physical classroom. If teachers use copyrighted materials on a website (for example their class webpage) then they have misused what Fair Use allowed them to do.  Fair Use is the in-between zone between understanding copyright and the use of copyrighted resources. The Venn diagram below highlights what fair use permits individuals to do with copyrighted material, and represents the most common uses of this material by teachers.

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As a teacher, my practice is directly influenced by copyright in the materials that I find  to use in my classroom and in how I teach my students to find and use information in their assignments.  As I select materials to use in my Spanish classes, especially as I look for authentic resources such as images and videos from Spanish cultures, I need to beware of the origin of the material and if the material is copyrighted by its creator.  I must be sure that when selecting materials such as movies, that I carefully connect the content of the movie to the academic standards and instructional objectives that I want my lessons to address.  The use of movies is a commonly cited example in both Edutopia and theedublogger articles involving Fair Use.  Movies such as Selena (1997) used by Spanish teachers must be used in the manner described above and not used just to distract students on a early-release day. When teachers use movies without an instructional context, this could be considered as a public showing which violates Fair Use guidelines.  As I follow copyright and Fair Use guidelines, I will also have to provide my students with instruction about how to follow these rules as well.  As we encourage students to find outside support for the arguments and claims they make we must demonstrate the best practices of using these resources with real-life tasks and student friendly language. Common Sense Education provides an example of a video with student friendly language for explaining what copyright and Fair Use is and how to use the information they protect responsibly.

Works Cited: Youtube video-


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