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Guide Aims to Help Teachers Navigate Copyright Law

Staying on the right side of copyright laws is one of the many challenges to finding good instructional materials. A new guide aims to help teachers and school librarians navigate those ropes.

The American Library Association just released the Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators, sparked by a survey that found a dearth of guidance on the topic. With perky cartoon illustrations and a sense of humor, it tries to give teachers the basics about copyright law so they can find and use good online and print resources without drawing the disapproving attention of lawyers.

ALA officials said that librarians and educators often end up being more conservative than they need to be when making decisions about use of materials because they're uncertain about tenets such as fair use and are afraid they might be violating the law.

Carrie Russell, the book's author and the director of the ALA's Program on Public Access to Information, explores copyright questions unique to the school setting, such as what to consider when using copyrighted material in school plays or even to display on bulletin boards. And what about when teachers themselves create materials? Who holds rights to that material? (You can find some answers in this article for American Libraries.)

The ALA's Office of Information Technology Policy, which released the book, will host a series of discussions about it in the coming weeks, as well as a webinar. Those will be announced on the District Dispatch blog, maintained by the ALA's Washington (i.e. policy) office, so keep an eye on that if you are interested.

For fun in the meantime, you can also read here about the cartoonist/illustrator's process in designing the illustrations for the book.

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