In March of 2006 a Newsweek article highlighted a disturbing trend in the increase in cheating due, in part, to the advances in technology that have made cheating easier than it has ever been. The artical noted some striking statistics: "Rates of academic cheating have skyrocketed during the past decade. In a huge study of 50,000 college and 18,000 high-school students. More than 70 percent admitted to having cheated. That's up from about 56 percent in 1993 and just 26 percent in 1963."

Advances in technology have made tools for cheating readily available and an easier option for students than ever before. Students can log on to websites like to order an essay to be writen on the given topic. SparkMobile, from SparkNotes, provides a free service to students with access to even standard tools, such as mobile phones and text messaging. Students can simply send a text requesting a summary of a topic, character, etc., asked of them in class and are provided with a text message containing a summary of the requested material. (shown below)

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Students can also use to receive audio "Cliff Notes" on classic books that can be listened to via iPods. Additionally, students can use cameras built into mobile phones to take a picture of a test to be sent to other students (via picture-messaging); giving them a photograph of an entire exam.

Cheating is an international phenomenon and the increased cases of student cheating via technology has been occuring world wide. The following stories from summarize incidents of cheating in countries around the world including, China, Australia, UK, United States and one very large incedent of cheating in South Korea:
-- Cheating reports in national exams (China)
-- Students found using SMS during final exams (Australia)
-- Pupils use mobile phones to cheat in exams (UK)
-- High School Kids tell the New York Post they cheat on exams with their cell phones
-- Metal Detectors Present In Exam Rooms (South Korea)
-- Exam scandal offers shades Orwell's fear (South Korea)
-- Education Ministry goes after cheaters (South Korea)
-- A Struggle of 18 Days with 280,000 Text Messages (South Korea)
-- 1,625 More Suspected of Exam Cheating (South Korea)
-- South Korean Students Burned for SMS Cheating


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What is a Copyright?

Copyright is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary ( as, "The legal protection given to published works, forbidding anyone but the author from publishing or selling them." In the U.S., copyright protections are established by the 1976 Copyright Act which gives creators the exclusive ability to distribute, replicate, modify, publicly perform and sell copies of their works. These rights are earned immediately upon the creation of a work, and are not necessarily limited to only those works which are formally registered.

Educators must be especially concerned with the possibility of instances of copyright infringement as the fields of education and research typically include the examination and reference of someone else's work. It is crucial then, that teachers know and understand the rights afforded to authors by copyright law. This is especially true today as the use of the internet and educational technology makes finding and sharing information so easy and so readily available. A few common examples in which technology copyrights can easily be violated in the classroom include:
  • Purchasing a software program license and copying it to more than one computer.
  • Copying online publications from an online subscription to be copied and distributed to a class.
  • Posting a photograph or a quote on a website
  • Posting a poem or excerpt from a text on a website or a class publication

How to Use Copyrighted Information for Education:

Step 1: Determine if permission is needed for the work you want to use.

Step 2: Identify the copyright holder or agent.

Step 3: Send written request for permission to use. Remember to give yourself ample lead time, as the process for obtaining permissions can take months. Decide if you are willing to pay a licensing fee/royalty.

Step 4: If the copyright holder can't be located or is unresponsive (or if you are unwilling to pay a license fee), be prepared to use a limited amount that qualifies for fair use, or use alternative material.

What typically is Copyright Protected:

Understanding which works are copyrighted is an incredibly difficult task as an author does not have to display the copyright symbol, register the work, or even announce that the work is copyrighted in order to be afforded copyright protection. Generally, almost all original and recognizable expression is copyrighted immediately upon formation.

What typically isn't Copyright Protected:

Essentially, everything that is an original work of moderately unique thought can be and possibly is copyrighted. It is fairly difficult then, to list specifically everything that is copyrighted. Instead, it would be easier to list what is NOT copyrighted. Below you will find a list of the general characteristics of works or information that is not copyrightable.
  • works that have not been fixed in a tangible form of expression.
  • titles, names, short phrases, and slogans; familiar symbols or designs; mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering, or coloring; mere listings of ingredients or contents.
  • ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices -- as distinguished from a description, an explanation, or an illustration.
  • works consisting entirely of information that is common property and contains no original authorship, such as standard calendars, height and weight charts, tape measures and rulers, and lists or tables taken from public documents or other common sources.
There is a category of works which cannot be copyrighted; this category is called the Public Domain. What is included in the Public Domain is dramatically more limited than most would believe. The list of works which comprise the Public Domain are:
  • works published before January 1, 1923.
  • works published between 1923 and 1978 that did not contain a valid copyright notice.
  • works published between 1923 and 1978 for which the copyright was not renewed.
  • works authored by employees of the federal government.
  • works that the copyright owner has freely granted to the public domain.
Because of the duration of copyright protection established in the 1976 revision of the U.S. Copyright Act, no works published after January 1, 1978, will pass into the public domain until at least 2048. Even anonymous works are copyright protected until 95 years after publication!

The acts which constitute copyright infringement and those which constitute plagiarism are often confused, and although the use of a work might not be plagiarism, it very well might be copyright infringement. In other words, the use of quotation marks or a citation of attribution might negate the instance of plagiarism, but not of copyright infringement. As a general rule of thumb, when in doubt, assume a work is copyrighted and expressed permission must be obtained in order to use it.

The Good News for Teachers about Copyright Protections: The TEACH Act

In November of 2002 the TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization was passed in an effort to allow instructors greater freedom in using copyrighted works (specifically through and due to the proliferation of the internet and technology.)Essentially, it provides an exemption to copyright law which would have otherwise prohibited the use of some information. Below you will find a simple break down of what the TEACH Act did and did not provide exemptions for.

The following actions are allowed under the TEACH Act:
  • Display (showing of a copy) of any work in an amount analogous to a physical classroom setting.
  • Performance of nondramatic literary works.
  • Performance of nondramatic musical works.
  • Performance of "reasonable and limited" portions of other types of work (other than nondramatic literary or musical work) EXCEPT digital educational works.
  • Distance-education students may receive transmissions at any location.
  • Retention of content and distant student access for the length of a "class session."
  • Copying and storage for a limited time or necessary for digital transmission to students.
  • Digitization of portions of analog works if no digital version is available or if digital version is not in an accessible form.

The following are NOT allowed under the TEACH Act:
  • Works that are marketed "primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks" (commercially available digital educational materials)
  • Unlawful copies of copyrighted works under the U.S. Copyright Law, if the institution "knew or had reason to believe" that they were not lawfully made and acquired.

Fair Use


What Is Fair Use?

According to the United States Copyright Office, the doctrine of fair use has developed through numerous court decisions over the years. This doctrine has been "codified" in section 107 of the copyright law.

(As directly quoted from the U.S. Copyright Office Website):
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered “fair,” such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair:
  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The distinction between “fair use” and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author's observations; use in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied; summary of an address or article, with brief quotations, in a news report; reproduction by a library of a portion of a work to replace part of a damaged copy; reproduction by a teacher or student of a small part of a work to illustrate a lesson; reproduction of a work in legislative or judicial proceedings or reports; incidental and fortuitous reproduction, in a newsreel or broadcast, of a work located in the scene of an event being reported.”
Copyright protects the particular way an author has expressed himself; it does not extend to any ideas, systems, or factual information conveyed in the work.

The safest course is always to get permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office cannot give this permission.
When it is impracticable to obtain permission, use of copyrighted material should be avoided unless the doctrine of “fair use” would clearly apply to the situation. The Copyright Office can neither determine if a certain use may be considered “fair” nor advise on possible copyright violations. If there is any doubt, it is advisable to consult an attorney.
FL-102, Revised July 2006"

A Look At How Fair Use Works:


When Do I Need Fair Use?

Classroom and Library Copying
Using other peoples' original works when distributing classroom handouts, copying information in the library, posting items on the internet, and using information on classes involved in any type of online courseware, can bring about substantial questions of fair use and abuse. The next few sections will review each of the afformentioned items which raise questions of fair use.

Important Information to remember:
Current copyright law gives legal protection to nearly all text, images, audiovisual recordings, and other course materials that instructors or students might desire to use in the classroom, even if the original works do not include any statement about copyright.

Materials may be copied only if:
1. The instructor is the copyright owner of the material, or
2. The copyright owner of the material grants permission, or
3. The material is in the public domain, or
4. The use of the material is a "fair use" under the law, or
5. The material falls within another statutory exception.

Posting Materials on the Internet

New online technologicals make networking, programming, downloading, and sharing information incredibly easy. With the click of a mouse, you can cut, copy, and paste materials to a website. However, this can also easily lead to copyrights infringement. It is vitally important that permission is granted before information is shared that does not belong to the orginal creator.

The music industry has recently cracked down on internet uses who infringe on copyrighted material, posting artists songs and albums for free downloading, without the company's permission. Although the cases have been far and few between, regular internet users have been sued for this type of illegal downloading and have faced millions of dollars in fines.


Many people mistakenly assume that everything posted on the Internet is in the public domain. It is vital for you to know that, current copyright law gives legal protection to nearly all text, images, audiovisual recordings, and other materials that are posted on the Internet, even if the original works do not include any statement about copyright.

You may post materials on your websites only if:

1. You are the copyright owner of the material, or
2. The copyright owner of the material grants permission, or
3. The material is in the public domain, or
4. The use of the material is a "fair use" under the law, or
5. The material falls within another statutory exception.

Fair use plays a key role in the online world; just it has done with other forms of traditional media. Fair use is a legal doctrine that allows the public to make limited uses of copyrighted works without permission. Limiting the amount of material you post on your website, and restricting access to the material are creative ways of strengthening your claim of fair use. Obtaining permission from the copyright owner is an important option for posting materials on the World Wide Web.

Online Courseware

The rules and legal obligations that

Am I Within the Limits of Fair Use?
While fair use is intended to apply to teaching, research, and other such activities, a crucial point is that an educational purpose alone does not make a use fair. The purpose of the use is in fact only one of four factors that users must analyze in order to conclude whether or not an activity is lawful.

Moreover, each of the factors is subject to interpretation as courts struggle to make sense of the law. Some interpretations, and their subsequent reconstruction by policy-makers and interest groups, have been especially problematic. For example, some copyright analysts have concluded that if a work is a commercial product, the "nature" factor weighs against fair use. By that measure, no clip from a feature film or copy from a trade book could survive at least that fair-use factor. Similarly, some commentators argue that if a license for the intended use is available from the copyright owner, the action will directly conflict with the market for licensing the original. Thus, the availability of a license will itself tip the "effect" factor against fair use. Neither of these simplistic constructions of fair use is a valid generalization, yet they are rooted in some truths under limited circumstances. Only one conclusion about the four factors is reliable: Each must be evaluated in light of the specific facts presented.

A central tenet of this analysis is that fair use is a flexible doctrine that Congress wanted us to test and adapt for changing needs and circumstances. The law provides no clear and direct answers about the scope of fair use and its meaning in specific situations. Instead, we are compelled to return to the four factors and to reach creative and responsible conclusions about the lawfulness of our activities. Reasonable people will always differ widely on the applicability of fair use, but any reliable evaluation of fair use must depend upon a reasoned analysis of the four factors of fair use. The four factors also need not lean in one direction. If most factors lean in favor of fair use, the activity is allowed; if most lean the opposite direction, the action will not fit the fair-use exception and may require permission from the copyright owner.


The following is a brief explanation of the four factors from the fair-use statute. Keep in mind that fair use requires weighing and balancing all four factors before reaching a conclusion.

I. Purpose
Congress favored nonprofit educational uses over commercial uses. Copies used in education, but made or sold at a monetary profit, may not be favored. Courts also favor uses that are "transformative," or that are not mere reproductions. Fair use is more likely when the copyrighted work is "transformed" into something new or of new utility, such as quotations incorporated into a paper, and perhaps pieces of a work mixed into a multimedia product for your own teaching needs or included in commentary or criticism of the original. For teaching purposes, however, multiple copies of some works are specifically allowed, even if not "transformative." The Supreme Court underscored that conclusion by focusing on these key words in the statute: "including multiple copies for classroom use."

II. Nature
This factor examines characteristics of the work being used. It does not refer to attributes of the work that one creates by exercising fair use. Many characteristics of a work can affect the application of fair use. For example, several recent court decisions have concluded that the unpublished "nature" of historical correspondence can weigh against fair use. The courts reasoned that copyright owners should have the right to determine the circumstances of "first publication." The authorities are split, however, on whether a published work that is currently out-of-print should receive special treatment. Fair use of a commercial work meant for the educational market is generally disfavored. Courts more readily favor the fair use of nonfiction, rather than fiction. Commercial audiovisual works generally receive less fair use than do printed works. A consumable workbook will most certainly be subject to less fair use than would a printed social science text.

III. Amount
Amount is measured both quantitatively and qualitatively. No exact measures of allowable quantity exist in the law. Quantity must be evaluated relative to the length of the entire original and in light of the amount needed to serve a proper objective. One court has ruled that a journal article alone is an entire work; any copying of an entire work usually weighs heavily against fair use. Pictures generate serious controversies, because a user nearly always wants the full image, or the full "amount." On the other hand, a "thumbnail," low-resolution version of the image might be an acceptable "amount" to serve an education or research purpose. Motion pictures are also problematic, because even short clips may borrow the most extraordinary or creative elements. One may also reproduce only a small portion of any work, but still take "the heart of the work." This concept is a qualitative measure that may weigh against fair use.

IV. Effect
Effect on the market is perhaps even more complicated than the other three factors. Some courts also have called it the most important factor, although such rhetoric is often difficult to validate. This factor means fundamentally that if you make a use for which a purchase of an original theoretically should have occurred—regardless of your personal willingness or ability to pay for such purchase—then this factor may weigh against fair use. "Effect" is closely linked to "purpose." If your purpose is research or scholarship, market effect may be difficult to prove. If your purpose is commercial, then adverse market effect is often presumed. Occasional quotations or photocopies may have no adverse market effects, but reproductions of software and videotapes can make direct inroads on the potential markets for those works.
Click here to go to the Fair Use checklist
Click here to see a summary of Key Court Cases involving Fair Use

Positive Aspects of Fair Use
*Preserving some of histories greatest documents which would otherwise be lost due to copyright infringement laws, is one of the many positive aspects in utilizing the Fair Use doctrine. (Make sure to read the captions):

Resources Cited:
U.S. Copyright Office
Standford Fair Use
Essay on Fair Use
University of California Copyright Policy
Education World