How Does Fair Dealing Work for Educators?

Fair Dealing Decision Tool

The Biggest Myth

Want to know the biggest myth that even the most seasoned educators buy into? Anything on the Internet is fair game. Even if the intention to use an online source is for educational purposes, it doesn’t mean we can use it how we like. We have to make sure the dealing is fair.

Fair Dealing 101

In its simplest terms, fair dealing means that you don’t have to get permission from the copyright owner to distribute (i.e., deal) part of (or in some cases, all of) copyrighted work. This only works if the purpose of distribution is for education, research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, parody, or satire.

Litmus Test

How do you ensure that you are following the fair use rules? Best practice is to follow two simple guidelines:

  1. Ensure the distribution is for one of these reasons: education, research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, parody, or satire.
  2. Establish that the dealing is fair. This can get a bit complex, but best practice is to reproduce only short excerpts. A short excerpt could include up to 10% of a copyright-protected work, an entire artistic work such as a painting or photograph, a chapter from a book, an article from a periodical, a newspaper article, etc.

Basically, you only want to use as much of a copyrighted work as is necessary to achieve your educational purposes.

But What If . . .

When I started digging into fair dealing a bit more, I came up with all kinds of questions. At which point I called the copyright office at the University of Alberta. Here is what I learned:

  1. Avoid copying multiple passages or chapters from the same copyright-protected work, as this would not be considered fair dealing.
  2. Make sure an LMS site is password protected and that non-students don’t have access to the course materials. Otherwise, this could be considered copyright infringement.
  3. Link to YouTube videos when possible instead of embedding them in a course. Linking is not copying.
  4. Be careful when putting a journal article PDF into an online course. Each journal has different sharing permissions. Best practice is to link to a journal (except for the Harvard Business Review, which oddly enough, does not permit linking!)
  5. Try to find the eBook version of a book if you want to scan and post multiple chapters online. This way you can just link to the digital book. Otherwise, the university may have to pay for copyright permission to share the scanned copies online.
  6. Scroll to the bottom of the web page when you find an image you want to use online. If there are no specific terms of use or copyright information, you can use the image.

I think the ultimate best practice is to always give credit to the original work, and check in with a copyright specialist if you’re ever unsure!

Creative Commons is Always an Option

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization seeking to make it easier to share and reuse materials online. Creative Commons is best known for its copyright licenses, which helps make it easier for owners of copyright material to decide how they wish to share their work. These licenses also provide clear guidelines for users such as educators to use the original work.

I like to search for Creative Commons material first (especially when it comes to photos and videos), because I think their cause is extremely important in the digital age. (If it’s not possible to get in touch with the original copyright owner, who wants to wait x number of years for it to be in the public domain?! The information will probably be irrelevant by then. Rant over.)

When it isn’t possible to use Creative Commons material, I make sure to use materials that adhere to fair dealing and always cite the original work. This practice acknowledges the work of the original author and encourages students to do the same.

An Amazing Fair Use Tool

Navigating copyright can become extremely complicated. I recently learned about a Canadian platform called the Fair Dealing Decision Tool, and I’m so glad I did. If you’re not sure if you need copyright permission, using this online tool can walk you through the steps.

Give it a try!

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