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Lesson Plans

Re: Copyright laws

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Sat, 03 Jul 1999 08:24:19 -0500

Howdy ArtsEdNetters,

At 09:49 PM 7/2/99 EDT, Karla in Ark wrote:
>Speaking of copyright laws, what is the legality of using artwork off
>Internet sites? I was hoping to copy works onto PowerPoint presentations
>which can be shown over my TV screen. I'm assuming it's legal but would like
>to hear from those who have researched the subject of copyright laws.
>Anybody know for certain?

I recently read the articles in the Copyright Web site at with substantial interest since this has been an
issue for my students and myself at East Central High School. In our case,
the first time we had to confront the issue of copyrights in the Electronic
Media class involved one of the assignments which I used three years ago.
Picasso and Braque developed the collage in the first decade of the
Twentieth Century where pieces of published materials and other objects
were mixed with traditional visual art media to create a new art object.
There have been other artists throughout the century who have used the
technique extensively. In art education, we find the collage to be a very
useful teaching tool as it combines issues of art history, compositional
skills and a confidence building experience for young creators. It seemed
only natural to apply the project to the Electronic Media students since
their accomplished collage could be scanned and manipulated again as a
digital image on the computer using applications such as PhotoShop or
Painter. The project was a great teaching tool for that class and we were
displaying some of the completed student work on the Web and in student
exhibitions. However, I began to read some discussion about copyright on the
artsednet listserv and began to research the topic as it related to my
project assignments. I searched the net and the library for resources which
could help me try to understand how copyright and intellectual property laws
would look upon student projects which involved scanning and manipulating
materials from magazines, newspapers and related works.

Since there was a long tradition in the use of collage as a visual arts
media, logic would have it that the same materials would be fair game if
they were scanned and used for bits and pieces of digital projects by my
students........Yet this is not the case.

After talking to lawyers on the net I discovered that the person purchasing
the original magazine, or the person who owns the physical materials would
have the right to use such materials in a physical collage, however, if any
part of the same published object were scanned or photographed and the
digital image was used in an art work and then printed or republished in any
form, be it on the web or exhibited as a printed digital image, the artist
would be open to litigation from the original photographer, artist or
publisher of the image.

There are some other concerns which were mentioned involving the value or
marketability of the original image and publication. If the owners of the
original intellectual property could prove that another artist had used
their work in a manner that would generate profit or infringe upon the
profit of the original owners, that artist would also be open to litigation.

Since those discussions with lawyers, I have several policies that I try use
in my class with the kids. I explain the way the law looks at the use of a
page from a real magazine in art compared to the use of the same page,
scanned and published or printed in a secondary form. In other words one
can purchase, own and use the image as a physical object or reproduction
sold from its original source but the original creator and publishers
continue to maintain control over the use of that intellectual property for
future publication and sale.

I explain that if the students are learning to use the scanner or digital
camera in my class, they may use any object, magazine or paper for the
learning experience. However, they are informed that I will not exhibit
their finished art on the Web or show it in printed form in an exhibition if
I can determine that part of their work was the intellectual property of
another person or company. . I explain that I will not subject them, the
school or myself to potential litigation. The only exception would be if
they were able to manipulate the original image in such a way that I were
confident that the original creators of the image would not recognize their
own work as part of the visual source material for the student project.

Now, after reading the articles on the Copyright Web site I am even more
leery and confused on the issue. The use of an actual advertising page from
a magazine in the Robert Rauschenberg 3D collage which generated litigation
goes against my discussions on the Web with the lawyers. I doubt that there
is any real precedence in this area of the law. It will probably be worked
out in the next couple decades on a case by case basis, just as will be the
case for many of the issues which surround copyright, intellectual property
and the Internet.

I think the section in the Copyright Web site that looked at what is
protected when you publish on the Web, what you can and cannot take from
others for your Web page, and what issues are involved in linking to other
people's Web pages was a helpful resource in support of my teaching. We try
to display some student work on our art department Web site and the students
are encouraged to develop some of the pages for the display of their work.
Issues of copyright should be part of their learning experience. I
appreciated the effort in the article to try to define what words like
'public domain' and 'fair use.'

I think information concerning copyright should be shared with those who
don't know about it by making sure that students learn about some of the
issues at an early age and then keep confronting it in their classes as they
continue their education. For adults, It is important that those of us who
build web pages link to lists of sources such as the Copyright Web page
whenever the link seems appropriate. Perhaps all of us should include a
link at the same time that we place the copyright symbol and claim copyright
for our individual work. That would insure that there would be an
opportunity for people who do not understand copyright issues to learn
throughout the web. Continued discussion on the various listservs will also
maintain an interest in the topic for newcomers to the Internet.

If you want to try to understand how the law seems to look at copyrights,
here is a list of copyright resources which I have accumulated over the past
several years:

Copyright Web site -

Copyright and Fair Use in Digital Environments: Challenges For the
Educational Community -

Copyright & Fair Use (@ Stanford University) -

Copyright and Fair Use: The Great Image Debate -

Copyright Resource Page -

A Bimonthly Report on Research Library Issues and Actions from ARL, CNI, and
SPARC - Copyright - -

Peter Walsh. "The Coy Copy: Technology, Copyright, and the Mystique of
Images." -

Gary Schwartz. "No fair: long-term prospects for regaining unencumbered
use." -

David Green. "Your Copyright Future is Being Determined Now, or: Public
Interest? What Public Interest?" -

Intellectual Property in the Information Age: A Classroom Guide to Copyright

Art, Copyright and the Web Bibliography -,

Art Museum Image Consortium -

Conference on Fair Use (CONFU) -

Copyright Clearance Center Online -

NII Copyright Protection Act of 1995 -
Proposal for Educational Fair Use Guidelines for Digital Images -

Copyright Information Page (@ University of Michigan) -

Digital Future Coalition -

Digital Images and Fair Use Web Sites -

Fair Use of Copyrighted Works -

Guide to Copyright (@ Institute for Learning Technologies) -

Information Infrastructure Task Force (IITF) Website -

Legal Information Institute ~ Copyright Law Materials (@ Cornell University)

Resources on Fair Use in Education -

US Copyright Office Homepage -