So…You Want to Claim Fair Use?

The Situation:
I am working with  Middle School students (Grades 6-8 – 11-13 year olds) at Graded, The American School of Sao Paulo, Brazil. One of the vision of our division  is to create student blogfolios (Digital Portfolios on a blogging platform) to encourage and support sharing and documentation of learning artifacts and to receive authentic global feedback. We are just at the beginning of our journey to use the blogs to document and reflect.

Our 8th graders have written a “This I Believe” essay, which they are “upgrading” from a text base essay to a video or audio presentation using images, video or sound to not just “enhance with technology” but to truly transform a reader’s/viewer’s experience.

Students are encouraged to use their own images, videos and sound, of course, but that is not always possible or time efficient. Iam creating awareness  to make students’ realize  or at least pause to consider that:

  • they just can’t use a song they purchased on iTunes
  • it is ok, since they will not get caught.
  • can’t just google an image and make it legal to use it by merely citing the source with a link
  • use whatever they want offline and  simply claim Fair Use, since it is for a school project

I exposed them to Creative Commons and pointed them to several resources to be able to find images that they can use in their project. (

Students were very engaged and had many questions, what if …, but if….



image licensed under Creative Commons by Tkgd2007-

The Question?
Can students claim Fair Use when creating a multimedia presentation for class with the intend to publish and share the product with a worldwide audience on their blog”?

After our meeting, several students searched online to try to prove to me that they were allowed to claim fair use… Here are some of the links that came in via email.

The Fair Use Guidelines (by the  U.S. Copyright Office)
There are  four factors for determining fair use of copyrighted works.

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of 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.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Now, these guidelines don’t really spell it out ( in a black and white)  for our students if they can claim the use of copyrighted material for their projects.


I am trying to pull resources and material together to shed light on our particular situation of not just being able to use, but also to SHARE the final product on the student portfolio.

When looking for the criteria to claim Fair Use, I found the the following section on Fair Use Practices for Students on the website of North Dakota State University:

4. What effect does the use have on the potential market for the work?
You may never distribute or sell your projects to mass audiences, and you may keep only two copies of the project. Be aware that federal law also maintains time limitations. You may keep your project for two years and must not harm the author or copyright holder’s profits. Always cite all your sources; the copyright holder of any material used in your class project must be
given proper credit. And be aware that these guidelines apply to material on Web (text, images, multimedia objects) which is protected under copyright law

One very clear statement of what is NOT educational use was found on the LearnNC, a program of the University of North Carolina

To republish or publicly perform a work does not fall under fair use. For example, a student may use a copyrighted image in a multimedia presentation to the class, but may not post that presentation to the web where anyone could see it. An English class may act out parts of a play as they study it, but may not give a public performance.

I am  planning to share the following video with them in order to learn more about the four factors that are guidelines (not law).

Now What?

I am in need of someone with expertise in the subject matter of Fair Use and Creative Commons who would be willing to skype into my 8th grade class to answer students questions. I sent the following tweets out to my network in hopes of someone (who knows maybe even someone at Creative Commons itself) would be willing to make this murky territory a little clearer for our students.



Even if you are not able to Skype into our classroom, please help our students by sharing your expertise, resources, or advice in the comment section.