Applying Fair Use AND Honoring Copyright During A Crisis

Last week, I posted “Ethically Sharing Children’s and Young Adult Literature Online.” The point of my post was to make a case for why educators and librarians, in particular, should continue to model respect for the exclusive rights of the copyright holder… even during the current crisis. In this post, I am suggesting ways to do that.

Fair Use = A Librarian’s / Educator’s Perspective
I have heard from a number of School Librarian Leadership.com readers that they do not agree with my perspective and have already posted or have plans to post complete picture book readings or daily chapter book readings on the open Internet. I agree that authors and publishers will most likely not sue them for copyright violations, but for me, that is not the point.

There are a number of copyright experts who proclaim these recordings would fall under Fair Use Guidelines during the pandemic and advise educators to proceed with confidence. Some believe these freely distributed educational recordings should always be allowable under fair use. For two articles written from those perspectives, read:

Jacob, Meredith. (2020). “Reading Aloud: Fair Use Enables Translating Classroom Practice to Online.” (includes a link to register for a webinar Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 1:00 p.m. EDT).

Otsman, Sarah. (2020, March 24). “Online Story Time & Coronovirus: It’s Fair Use, Folks.” Programming Librarian.org.

Copyright Media Warning Exclamation Point ImageFrom a Copyright Holder’s Point of View
As a copyright holder myself, I take another view. I believe that creators, whether they are famous authors, little known authors, or student authors, should retain the rights that are given exclusively to copyright holders, even in this crisis.

“Copyright provides the owner of copyright with the exclusive right to

  • Reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords;
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • Distribute copies or phonorecords of the work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • Perform the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a motion picture or other audiovisual work;
  • Display the work publicly if it is a literary, musical, dramatic, or choreographic work; a pantomime; or a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work. This right also applies to the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work.
  • Perform the work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission if the work is a sound recording.

Copyright also provides the owner of copyright the right to authorize others to exercise these exclusive rights, subject to certain statutory limitations” (U.S. Copyright Office).

I am the author of four published picture books as well was professional books for educators and librarians. Two of my picture books are written in rhyme. I have heard adult readers butcher my work by reading it in a strict singsong cadence as one might recite “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Listening to my work presented in this way is personally painful.

In 2011, I published a VoiceThread partial reading of Sing Down the Rain for a Book2Cloud Challenge offered by David Loertscher. The reading includes the book’s artwork created by Michael Chiago; I purchased Michael’s paintings as well as the copyright to those illustrations. I have not recorded a reading of the poem in my picture book for the families of young children. I do not own the copyright to the illustrations in Read to Me/Vamos a leer.

Ethical Ways to Connect to Our Students and Families
I realize that many educators and librarians want to make personal connections with their students and families during these uncertain times. An educator’s recording of a read-aloud published behind password protection or on a publicly accessible platform would not be interactive without youth present. I don’t see the advantage of educators recording themselves when so many authors, illustrators, and publishers are stepping up within their copyright holder rights “to authorize others to exercise these exclusive rights, subject to certain statutory limitations” (U.S. Copyright Office).

Using technology tools, especially those that can be easily accessed on smartphones for students and families who lack computers and tablets, is a laudable goal. I believe there are many ways to keep those connections going AND to honor the exclusive rights given to copyright holders. Here are a few ideas.

The read-aloud resources on last week’s blog post are ethically shared resources that could be used to substitute for the educator’s read-aloud. (Many others have been made available since that post.)

  1. Educators can create an introductory homemade video that welcomes viewers.
  2. In their introductory videos, educators can also share public domain songs, fingerplays, movement activities, or make other connections to the author’s video recording as they would in a face-to-face storytime.
  3. They can invite listeners to use comprehension strategies such as “before you watch this video or listen to this podcast, what do you already know about…” Or “after you watched this video, think about… Do you want to phone someone (maybe a friend or relative) or write a letter to someone to tell them about this story and what it made you think of?”
  4. Educators can offer a public space (a blog, wiki, social media platform) for listeners to share their responses to the reading.
  5. Educators can record booktalks and create book trailers (while observing copyright), or use trailers provided by publishers/authors. They can link talks and trailers to the ebooks to which students have access. Later, they can repurpose these talks and trailers as ethical examples for students to view when creating their own talks and trailers from home or when back at school in the physical space of the classroom or library.
  6. Your ideas? Please post in the comment section below.

Honoring the Rights of Our Heroes
We librarians are fans of authors/illustrators. We stand in long lines at conferences to get books signed for our students (and for ourselves). We follow children’s and young adult literature creators on social media. We hold author/illustrator events in our libraries and promote, promote, promote the work of our author-illustrator heroes.

As noted in the SLJ article “Publishers Adapt Policies to Help Educators,” most publishers are asking that our personally made and published recordings of their copyrighted material be available behind password protection. (This is always an application of Fair Use; the password protection is like closing the door to your classroom or library.) Publishers such as Scholastic have given specific instructions to inform them of the publicly published work and have given a sunset time when educator-made videos must come down.

Considering the current copyright provisions and fair use guidelines, I believe that we must consider both perspectives, those of the creators and our own educator perspective, as we negotiate this challenging time. As librarians, I believe we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. If you don’t agree with the exclusive rights of copyright holders, work to change them. If you apply the temporary exemptions offered by publishers, follow their guidelines and pull down your videos when requested to do so.

I hope we can work together to come up with long-term solutions that allow us to connect with our library stakeholders electronically, provide them with remote literature-centered literacy services, and still honor the intellectual property rights of creators.

And let’s make sure that those solutions address the technology gap as well as the needs of youth with disabilities.

Wishing you all the best as you stay safe and healthy,
Judi

Work Cited

“Copyright Basics.” Copyright.gov. https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ01.pdf

Image Credit

Clkr-Free-Vector-Images. “Copyright Media Warning Exclamation Point.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/vectors/copyright-media-warning-exclamation-40846

This entry was posted in Copyright, Fair Use, Traditional Literacies and tagged , , , by Judi Moreillon. Bookmark the permalink.

About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi has taught preservice school librarians since 1995. She is currently an adjunct associate professor for the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has taught courses in instructional partnerships and school librarian leadership, multimedia resources and services, children’s and young adult literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles. She has published four professional books; the most recent is Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018). (See the book study on this blog.) Judi earned the American Library Association's 2019 Scholastic Library Publishing Award.

6 thoughts on “Applying Fair Use AND Honoring Copyright During A Crisis

  1. You say “ I don’t see the advantage of so many educators recording themselves…”. Here is the advantage: kids know, trust and love their local teachers and librarians, and the experience these educators reading to them every day. When times are scary and difficult, the continuing presence of these trusted adults doing the same things they do in normal times, is of great value to the community. As a public librarian I feel it is incumbent upon me to make every effort to provide that reassurance and continuity. And if my storytime group of three year olds can get joy and comfort from my silly reading of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, I think I should be able to do that. Without requiring them to provide a password. Not permanently. Just for now.

    • Dear Mary,
      Thank you for sharing your perspective and your decision.

      As noted in my post, I am suggesting that librarians create resources to supplement those provided by authors, illustrators, and publishers. There are many aspect of a storytime that are in the public domain – songs, fingerplays, your original movement activities. These also may be the most interactive bits that can get our youngest patrons involved in our storytimes. That way we can both make every effort to provide reassurance and continuity (meet the needs of patrons) and respect the rights of copyright holders.

      And yes, if you choose to create your own freely available read-aloud recordings, I’m glad you are following the publishers’ guidelines and will delete your recording when the crisis has past. That also strikes a balance.

      Sincerely,
      Judi

  2. Thank you for adding an additional perspective. As a school librarian who is still waiting for guidance from my district in regards to my role in this crisis, I feel a little bit like a ping pong ball being batted from one side of the discussion to the other.

    I can’t believe that I didn’t consider the fact that some readers would butcher an author’s work.

    Right now, like many people, I would like nothing more than to be able to be in my library, doing what I love. Thank you for giving me more to consider…

    • Dear Tricia,
      The resourced linked here are shared by authors or illustrators themselves and/or within the publishers’ guidelines. If you find an error in this collection in terms of copyright, please let me know.
      Thank you.
      Best,
      Judi

  3. Dear Mary – I certainly do not want to infringe on copyright issues. I also feel that at this time and place, recording myself reading picture book, and sending the link of the reading only to my students (via Remind), should be allowed. My families, mostly low economic, need to see my face and hear stories. Many don’t have any books of their own. I’m more than willing to provide my email address to them for the purposes of sending me a comment or thought. This seems fair. I’d welcome your thoughts.

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