Digital Learning, School Leadership

Copyrights – Did you know??

I learned something new this week! Even though I have taught my students about copyrights for the last two years, I never knew that it was housed in the Library of Congress. When reading a white paper by the Hudson Institute, my eyes were opened to many new things. The first thing that stood out was that the Librarian serves several different roles for the Copyright office such as HR, budget requests, IT, other matters. That’s an incredible work load! That alone, tells me the Copyright office should be separate from the library for logistics and efficiency. Overall, the Hudson Institute makes an excellent argument for separating the library and the office. Modern times have seen many changes in technology which manifest itself differently from the Library’s perspective and the Copyright Office. Both places have seen an increase in workload, thus separation could result in positive changes.

This leads me to my next thought about the ever-changing world we live in and how that affects copyrighted material. As we move into an age of education where digital courses are becoming more commonplace, the use of copyright material presents different concerns. Copyright material is used daily in traditional classrooms and now in digital classrooms. Teachers and students commonly gather information for various purposes from works that are copyrighted. Fortunately, as the platform of the classroom is changing, copyright laws are adding amendments to address as many issues as possible.

Generally, people produce and publish their work so that it can be accessed by the educational or public communities. The Association of Action Libraries explains at the heart of copyright law is the general idea that to promote education exchange, products should be quoted, copied, and reused (2012). Copyright laws allow for people to get credit for their ideas, but also for the ideas to become a part of the public domain, accessible by all to promote important new work and discourse. Penn State explains the TEACH Act helps to update the copyright laws to apply to the new nontraditional setting of classrooms explaining it is an extension of current copyright laws (2018). The TEACH Act provisions allow for certain copyright material to be used in the digital classroom environment without permission from the copyright owner with certain restrictions. The TEACH Act does not replace or affect fair use because it is just addressing the public use of copyright material in the classroom. It is important to examine the TEACH Act, fair use, and how libraries all work together to the enhancement of education.

Librarians are the curators in many cases of digital material and can help students and teachers with following the appropriate copyright laws. They can also ensure there is appropriate access to the copyright material for all parties. Librarians, teachers, and students are all responsible for following copyright laws. A teacher must consider laws when distributing material. In order to properly comply with TEACH Act, the copyright material placed in the digital classroom setting must be made accessible only to students enrolled in the course for that term.

Copyright laws also affect librarians whose main goal is to enable teaching, learning, and research according to the Association of Research Libraries (2012). The majority of librarian work falls under the fair use exemption. The fair use exemption allows the use of copyrighted material without specific permission from the owner of the copyright. Fair use is not a clear cut exemption, it varies from each community such as teaching, law practice, and more. One tool libraries put together to enhance learning are databases which facilitate research uses for students, teachers, and the public. These databases are very useful in a day with so many resources available. The way that copyright law is written, allows for these databases to be created. Libraries creating databases is considered fair use because it allows an analysis for scholarly and reference purposes (Association of Research Libraries, 2012).

To conclude, librarians, educators, and students all have parts to play in ensuring copyright law is followed, but copyright law is in place so enhance learning. If databases weren’t available, material would be more difficult to organize. If fair use along with the provisions made for using copyright material weren’t available, education would look very different than it does now as teachers and students would not be able to pull information from other works.


Association of Research Libraries. (2012 Jan). Code of best practices in fair use for academic and research libraries, 1-9.

Penn State. (2018). TEACH act. Retrieved from

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