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Copyright & Fair Use

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ISTE Standards for Students

2. Students recognize the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of living, learning and working in an interconnected digital world, and they act and model in ways that are safe, legal and ethical.

BCPS Copyright Rules, Procedures & Resources

Materials included in curriculum or used in instruction must comply with BCPS Copyright Rule 1120 and U.S. Copyright law and Fair Use guidelines. In addition, BCPS teachers and staff should model legal and ethical use of media and respect for the intellectual property rights of others, and require that students do so in the learning products they create.

Curriculum developers, teachers, and students can use the resources on this page to ensure that media and materials included in curriculum, instructional materials, and student-published products are used legally. These resources may be used to facilitate professional development and student learning. For questions about copyright compliance, consult with your school library media specialist or contact BCPS Library Media Programs at 443-809-4035.

  • BCPS Rule 1120: Copyright | BCPS Rule 1120/Form A: Copyright Permission Request

    • If showing non-curricular films in school for entertainment/reward: See section VIII. Guidelines for Use of Commercial Media Products.

    • Music teachers: See especially section VI. Fair Use Guidelines - Print Music Scores/Music.

    • Copyright restrictions apply to materials posted to the Schoology learning management system or other online platforms. Faculty and staff are responsible for ensuring that the materials they post do not infringe copyright.

    • This article illustrates the importance of protecting our school system, its employees, and students against liability for copyright infringement - Federal jury: HISD staff repeatedly violated copyright laws, owe company $9.2M (AP News, May 25, 2019)

Key Terms

  • Legal Use: Works in the public domain/not copyrighted, 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 (all rights reserved) used legally by carefully weighing the four Fair Use factors. *An exception to copyright.

  • Copyright Infringement: Copyrighted works used without permission, in violation of the copyright-holder’s Terms of Use or Creative Commons license, or without regard for the four Fair Use factors.

Copyright & Fair Use Basics

The Law

According to U.S. Copyright law, copyright holders have the exclusive right to copy, distribute, display, and perform their work. Others must weigh four factors to determine if their use of a copyrighted work qualifies as a fair use.

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 it for curricular 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 your use affect the copyright holder's profits?


Copyright & Fair Use Resources

Watch this video for an introduction to Creative Commons.

Locating Copyright-Friendly Images:

Most images found using a general search engine like Google or Bing are protected by copyright. Students and teachers can use filtering tools to identify copyright-friendly images in search results.

Creative Commons & Copyright-friendly Resources

About Creative Commons

Open Education Resources (OER)

OER are materials for teaching or learning that are either in the public domain or have been released under a license or terms that allow them to be freely used, changed, or shared with others. Use the resources below to locate OERs.

  • OER Commons - Digital library of OERs, searchable by keyword, subject, level, and standards.

  • Destiny Collection of OER Portals - curated by BCPS Library Media Programs staff.

  • Search your school library's Destiny Catalog for OERs:

    • Log In to your school's Destiny Catalog with your BCPS username and password.

    • Do a keyword search, then click on the OER search results tab.

Copyright-friendly Portals

*Some Copyright-friendly resource portals may be blocked for teachers or students inside the BCPS network. Some portals may contain images that are not appropriate for students; evaluate sources before sharing with students.

Locating Copyright-Friendly Music

  • Commercial music and music tracks located via online search are likely protected by copyright. Such music should not be downloaded and used in school/student multimedia products unless it is used in compliance with the four Fair Use factors.

  • Creative Commons/Copyright-Friendly Music - LibGuide of curated online music resources. Some sources may be blocked for teachers or students inside the BCPS network. Some portals may contain music that is not appropriate for students; evaluate before sharing or using.


Creative Commons-licensed YouTube Videos:

Videos licensed with a "Standard YouTube License" are protected by Copyright. Downloading copyrighted videos from YouTube using a third-party tool and posting the files elsewhere is copyright infringement. See the YouTube Copyright Guide for information about copyrighted content on YouTube.

YouTube videos are blocked for student access inside BCPS networks and when using BCPS devices at home. There are two methods for enabling student access to Creative Commons-licensed YouTube videos in compliance with copyright.

    • Add YouTube video links to VoiceThread.

Teachers can use filtering tools to locate Creative Commons-licensed YouTube videos for student access as shown below:


  • Always provide attribution (cite the original source), even when using public domain or copyright-friendly media.

    • Citing images or media from BCPS-licensed Databases: Use the pre-formatted citation provided on the page.

    • It is generally accepted to cite the URL (rather than a formal citation) for digital images used in projects/presentations.

    • If multiple digital images, quotes from digital publications, etc. are used in a document, infographic, etc. it may be acceptable to list the URLs separately in a "Works Cited."

  • Citing images found via Google or Bing search:

    • Google and Bing are NOT the original source or the copyright-holder for images found via an image search there. DO NOT cite Google or Bing as the source! From the image search results page, visit the original source page to obtain the correct URL.