Today we are talking about copyright laws. Just as it is important for me as a blogger, podcaster, author, and YouTube creator to know how to legally use another’s content, when our children write papers, interact on the internet, or create media content it is important for them to know what is legal and what is not. When it comes to obeying these laws, ignorance is no excuse.
Just to make sure we are all on the same page, copyright is a law that gives you ownership over your media creations—poetry, essays, photos, paintings, websites, videos, etc. This means that you and only you have the right to perform the work, display the work, write variations of the work, reproduce the work, or distribute copies of the work. If you perform or make copies of a work, even with attribution, you are breaking the law unless you have the OK from the creator.
In Europe, they actually go a step farther than in the United States, by adding a moral right which says authors also have the right to object to any derogatory action that may damage the author’s reputation or distort the original intent of the work. In other words, we need to be very careful when quoting or using another’s content.
So here are 5 copyright laws you will want to make sure both you AND your child know before their next content creation.
5 Copyright Laws Every Child Needs to Know
1. Using Someone Else’s Content to Make Money is Illegal
One of the most commonly used defenses for using quotations and other copyrighted media content is what is known as the fair use law. “Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute,” [and I’m quoting here] “it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports. There are no legal rules permitting the use of a specific number of words, a certain number of musical notes, or percentage of a work.” As you can see, the law on fair use is fairly vague and is usually only used on the defensive if you get sued. That doesn’t encouraging, does it?
Yet we know that using other’s content to validate our own is an important part of content creation so how do we teach our children to do this legally? Some important factors judges consider when looking at fair use copyright cases is whether the use deprives the copyright owner of income, whether it’s used for educational purposes, and how much content was used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
While no specific perimeters are given by the law directly, Stanford University has created a 10% guide for its students which I think is a good starting point for homeschool students as well. In short, they recommend:
- 1,000 words or less or up to 10% of written quotations (whichever is less)
- 30 seconds or less or up to 10% of music and lyric excerpts (whichever is less)
- 2,500 fields or less or up to 10% of database information (whichever is less)
- No more than 5 images by the same artist or photographer or up to 10% of their photographs (whichever is less)
These are just guides given by one educational institution and not the letter of the law. However, the point is–use quotations sparingly and for educational purposes ONLY NOT for commercial use. By the way, if you want to check your child’s original content for plagiarism, you may want to copy and paste your child’s text into a free online program like Plagium for a quick scan. (I’ll include the link in the show notes).
2. Creative Commons is NOT the Same as Public Domain
Any work in public domain is free to use and no longer restricted by copyright. Students can use these works to create parodies, write derivatives, and offer critiques without any repercussions. Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne just became public domain as of January of this year so I fully expect to see a lot of variations of this classic being published over the next few years.
Creative Commons, however, is NOT the same. Creative Commons is a type of license that allows a student to use copyright-protected material without direct approval from the author.
This is actually one of the better ways for students to find useable media content but there are some strings attached. While Creative Commons media is FREE to use, this media usually requires an attribution and must be used for non-commercial purposes. An attribution is often something as simple as the words “taken by Kathy Gossen” written under the image with a link to the author’s website. Thus, it is always good to check the conditions of any Creative Commons content before using.
3. Bible Quotes are Revered. Recipes are Not.
With the exception of the American Standard Version, The King James Version, Young’s Literal Translation, and the Webster Bible, which are all public domain, Bible translations have their own copyright. Some allow you to quote up to 250 verses without written permission. Others do not allow you to quote anything without written permission. And most require that you provide some form of copyright information for each quotation.
So, if your child is quoting Bible verses in their essays, for example, be sure to have them check the copyright requirements for the translation they are using on Bible Gateway or via the Bible’s copyright web page.
As far as recipes, they are generally NOT copyrighted. A list of ingredients alone is never copyrighted and if the directions are written in one’s own words, you are usually free to share any tried-and-true recipes desired. It’s just generally recommended to never copy recipes out of a cookbook directly or in their entirety as this would be a copyright infringement.
4. Images, Music, and Video are ALL Copyrighted Material
With the age of Pinterest and Instagram, a once clear copyright law has become somewhat blurred. Can your child copy and paste images or music on social media, add popular music to their Instagram stories, or include copied graphs in their science report? The short answer is it depends.
Instagram pays or gets permission from composers and performers to allow users to include a portion of their compositions as background music on stories so that is ok IF a user selects a popular song from Instagram’s audio library.
However, if you were to use those same songs on a YouTube video without prior permission, that is NOT ok. The use of any other music on YouTube except royalty free music (which basically means the same as public domain) and music that comes with written permission of the artist and/or composer is illegal. This is why YouTube has its own audio library—to make it easy for users such as your students to find legal royalty free music to accompany their video content.
For free media content, students can easily find Creative Commons images and videos by selecting “Creative Commons” under the tools menu on Google or by accessing Wikimedia’s Commons database. Just remember an attribution is most likely required
If you don’t want to worry about attributions of Creative Commons images, send your students to Clkr.com for royalty-free clipart, the Public Domain Archive for beautiful royalty-free photos, or Canva which has an amazing database to royalty-free images thanks in part to partnerships with Pexel, Pixabay, and other free stock photo websites.
5. Your Thoughts and Creations are Copyrighted too
Just as students need to know that the content of others is copyrighted, they also need to understand that their own works are copyrighted. A work is protected by copyright the moment it is created, by whomever created it. However, just because it is protected doesn’t mean the court will enforce that protection. Let me explain what I mean.
Prior to 1978, all you needed to have was a copyright symbol © to protect your content. However, in 1978, the law changed so that any creation from the moment of its inception gives the author full copyright during his or her life plus an additional 70 years. This means your child’s creations are your child’s creations today, tomorrow, and up to 70 years following his or her death which will hopefully be many, many years down the road.
Now there are some exceptions to this law, but for the most part, our kids just need to know that the moment they save something on their computer that is original, good or bad, it’s theirs for life. However, plagiarism can still be an issue so some things your child can do to deter someone from taking his or her content includes the following:
- If your child is creating a blog or website, have them put the copyright sign in the blog footer along with the year and the statement “All Rights Reserved.” You can see an example of this in my footer on CornerstoneConfessions.Com. It’s just one way your child can let others know that their content is not public domain.
- If they are creating a novel or longer written work, have them include a copyright page. I will include a copy of my Encompass Preschool Curriculum copyright page as an example in today’s transcription.
Encompass Preschool Curriculum
Copyright © 2021 by Kathy L. Gossen. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be repro-duced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo-copy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the author, except as provided for by USA copyright law and as stated in this book.
Unless otherwise stated all Scripture citations are taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNA-TIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Have your child register important content through the U.S. Copyright Office. This is really the only way courts will be able to enforce copyright law protection. The rest are just deterrents to encourage users to “do the right thing.” And for most users, that is enough.
So encourage your students to be responsible users of others’ media content. If they don’t know if they can use a quote, image, video, or music, they shouldn’t use it. It is always better to be safe than sorry because the fine for “willful” infringement can range up to nearly $150,000.