Copyright is something feared by many but often misunderstood, similar to insects and GMOs. Copyright is precise to the source of material you utilize, so generalizations can be tricky. Copyright is defined as sole legal rights to the originator. This legal right permits print, reproduction, publishing, selling, film, literature, and music.
As a teacher, you may be stuck in a pickle of determining if you are covered under the Fair Use Act. You can ask yourself a few questions that will answer if you are able to use the information. If the material you are using is from the internet or musical and is for a non-profit school you are in the clear! Is the work you are attempting to use published or unpublished? Factual information is not covered by a copyright, but the wording or narrative behind the fact is. Size really does matter when it comes to copyright. If you are taking small excerpts out of a text you should be falling under the Fair Use Act, but please refrain from utilizing complete works, as it most likely isn’t fair use. How does this effect the work? If you are lecturing about how a piece of writing or music is terrible it is not assumed to be fair use. Any use of a material that may alter sales, or production can be seen as copyright infringement.
What you actually copy makes a difference. Different mediums have different conflict when it comes to fair use. Print material is available to an educator if the print is used for one time, and producing a minimal amount of copies. Film is able to be used if it directly corresponds with a lesson. Computer programs and software is rather tricky and your school is held responsible for having rights to use software that isn’t free to the public.
Copyright sounds daunting and the fear of lawsuit doesn’t seem that irrational. But take the time to make sure you fit in the Fair Use act and or know the consequences of your future actions.