20 Mar 2017

The Copyright Conundrum

Multimedia projects are a great way for students to demonstrate learning in a creative way. Creating multimedia projects like videos also provides opportunities for students to build collaboration and communication skills. With 1:1 devices, making multimedia projects has never been easier. But having such easy access to images, videos, and songs also adds copyright complications that consumers need to be aware of. We all need to know how to find, use, and cite appropriate resources.

We teach about plagiarism in many different subject areas. We know that it’s not okay to use others’ ideas or written works and claim them as our own. And yet when it comes to images, music, or videos, students - and often teachers - don’t adhere to the same standard. We get it! Finding high quality, royalty-free media resources is time consuming. This blog post will (a) address common misconceptions about copyright and (b) provide great resources for royalty-free photos, video, and music that students (and teachers!) can incorporate into projects and presentations.

Students also need to know how to (legally) share original content. In order for learning to be authentic and transformative, students need to share their learning with the world!


FAQ/Common Misconceptions


Because we are using this (song, video, image) for educational use, it’s perfectly legal to use it.

Educational use, or fair use, is probably the most confusing aspect of copyright law. It allows for teachers to use limited selections of works. Typically fair use is related to using a copyrighted work sparingly in a review, commentary, research, or instruction. Because images, songs, and videos are creative and not factual information, they are less likely to meet the requirements of using it for fair use.

Can’t I just use 30 seconds of this song?

The 30 second rule is a complete myth. It doesn’t exist. Seriously. Here’s more details.

My student really wants to use this copyrighted song. It just fits the video so well! Can’t I use it if it’s for educational use only?

Unfortunately, no. Educational use does not extend to using music in media projects or other original creations. I would recommend checking out the links above. There is a ton of royalty-free music out that that fits every occasion.

Well it’s on YouTube, so can’t I use it for my project?

Not exactly and we’ve got to be pretty careful here. While a ton of the content on YouTube is copyrighted and posted illegally, we shouldn’t be encouraging students to use this content. Saving MP3s off YouTube or downloading the video files is definitely not legal unless you get permission from the owner of the video. The way videos earn money for an artist is based on how many times that video is viewed so taking it off YouTube will not earn the artist views. There are some YouTube channels that offer free stock footage and provide you a link to download the content, but these types of videos can be difficult to find.

Doesn’t this take more instructional time?

Yes, it definitely can take more time especially when kids are just learning how to cite sources. But having kids practice digital citizenship will be very important when they get out into the workforce. They need to be able to create media without stealing just like we need to be able to write without plagiarizing.

My student wrote a parody of a copyrighted song. Can they put it on YouTube?

Not to be a killjoy, but that also violates YouTube’s terms of service. While it might not get flagged right away and some artists don’t care, it may get flagged and taken down. That would be a great project to showcase to your classroom or in front of the school.

One link to rule them all! - A binder with tons of links which you can share with students.


Video Footage:


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