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Copyright and Fair Use for Digital Learning


Click photo to watch Jane the librarian explain Copyright and the impact of her academic institution's use of intellectual property. 

(This video made available by the Copyright Clearance Center)


Key Terms

  • Legal Use:  Works from the public domain, used with permission, or used according to the copyright holder’s Terms of Use or Creative Commons license. *Works used according to copyright; no fair use determination needed.

  • Fair Use:  Copyrighted works where use meets the guidelines for all four Fair Use factors (an exception to copyright)

  • Copyright Infringement:  Copyrighted works used illegally-- without permission, not according to copyright-holder’s terms of use or license, or not in compliance with Fair Use guidelines.



The Four Fair Use Factors

* All four Fair Use factors must be weighed to determine if a use of copyrighted material qualifies as a Fair Use.

1. Purpose and character of the use -  How will you use it? Are you using for face-to-face/online curriculum-aligned instruction? 

Is the work being used for criticism or parody? Have you transformed the original?

2. Nature of the work  -  What kind of work is it? Factual, creative, consumable?

3. Amount & substantiality of the work -  How much of the work will you use? Acceptable portions are limited according to format and whether you are using the "heart" of the work.

4. Effect on the market for the original - Will you use affect the copyright holder's profits?





Creative Commons & Copyright-Friendly Resources

Wanna Work Together? from Creative Commons on Vimeo.




More copyright-friendly resources: *NOTE: Some Copyright-friendly resource portals referenced here may be blocked for teachers and/or students inside the BCPS network. Some portals may contain images that are not appropriate for students.


Locating Copyright-Friendly Images and Media: 

  • Students and teachers can use Google Image Search Tools to search for copyright-friendly images:
    • From the Google search results page, click on Images. Then click on Search Tools and select Usage Rights to filter the search for images that are:
      • Labeled for Non-commercial Reuse -or-
      • Labeled for Non-commercial Reuse with Modification
    • OR, use Google Advanced Image Search to filter by license:

      • Free to use or share

      • Free to use, share or modify

  • Students and teachers can use Bing Image Search Tools to search for copyright-friendly images:
    • From the Bing search results screen, click on Images. Then pull down the License menu to:
      • Public domain
      • Free to share and use
      • Free to modify, share and use
  •  Remember that content/media published by the U.S. government is in the public domain and may be used legally.  


  • Always provide attribution (cite the original source), even when using public domain or copyright-friendly media, images, etc.
    • Citing images/media from BCPS-licensed Databases: In most databases, pre-formatted citations for a specific resources appear on the database page, usually at the bottom of the page or via a citation link. These pre-formatted citations may simply be copied and pasted onto the publication/presentation or Works Cited list.
    • It is generally accepted to provide the URL only when citing digital images.
    • If multiple digital images, quotes from digital publications, etc are used in a document, infographic, etc. it is acceptable to list the URLs separately in a modified "Works Cited."
    • If you wish to provide a formal citation, use a citation formatting guide or an online citation/bibliography tool like EasyBib to format a citation for a digital image, video, text excerpt, etc. used in instructional materials or student products.  
  • Regarding Google & Bing Images:
    • Images obtained by searching Google Images or Bing Image are most likely copyrighted.
    • Google and Bing are NOT the original sources for these images! Google/Bing does not own the images and is not the copyright holder. DO NOT cite Google or Bing as the source!
      • For an image found via Google or Bing image search,  click the image thumbnail/preview to open the original source and use the original source URL to cite the image. 


Iredell-Statesville Schools Copyright Compliance Policy  (Policy Code: 3230/7330)


The board recognizes and supports the limitations on unauthorized duplication and use of copyrighted materials. The board does not condone any infringement on the property rights and copyright owners.


Employees, students and visitors are prohibited from the use or duplication of any copyright materials not allowed by copyright law, fair use guidelines sanctioned by Congress, licenses or contractual agreements.  Willful or serious violations also are considered to be in violation of expected standards of behavior for employees and students and may result in disciplinary action in accordance with board policy.


Fair Use


Unless allowed as "fair use" under federal law, permission must be acquired from the copyright owner prior to copying copyrighted material.  Fair use is based on the following standards:

  • the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit education purposes;
  • the nature of the copyrighted work;
  • the amount of and the substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.
The superintendent or designee is responsible for providing information and training to personnel and students, as appropriate, to provide further guidance of the fair use of copyrighted materials, including in the following circumstances:
  • single and multiple copying for instructional purposes;
  • copying for performances and displays;
  • off-air recording of copyrighted programs;
  • use of "for home use only" videotapes;
  • computer software;
  • copyrighted materials on the Internet and on-line databases; and
  • reproduction and loan of copyrighted materials by school media centers. 



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