Tag Archives: fair use

Fair Use and Copyright

As Ms. Hobbs points out early in her presentation, a work becomes copyrighted when the author creates it. An example of the use of copyrighted materials that made me uncomfortable involved work I had created.

One of the many educational sanctions we assign to students is to attend an alcohol education program when they violate the Alcohol Policy. Part of this program includes a discussion of the various stages of physical impairment caused by consuming alcohol. While I did not create the stages, I did create physical representations of them, which students are asked to place in the correct order. Here they are, in no particular order*:

The pictures were taken from Microsoft Clip-Art, which I believe to be appropriate fair-usage of the images for educational purposes.

A few years ago, while attending the annual conference of the Association for Student Conduct Administration, I noticed a session focused on innovative approaches to alcohol education. Always looking to improve on our offerings, I attended the session. At one point, the presenter discussed an activity in which students were asked to place in the correct order the stages of physical impairment caused by consuming alcohol. Imagine my surprise (actually horror) when I saw that the stages were depicted in virtually the same manner I had created them – same pictures, same fonts, same everything. And with no reference to the University of Delaware. I was completely taken aback.

After the presentation, I went up to the presenter and commented on the stages of impairment, and asked how she came up with such creative representations. She said that she had received them from a colleague. After a bit more conversation, I came to realize that she formerly worked with a woman who had been a graduate student at Delaware a few years prior. This graduate student interned in the Office of Student Conduct and taught the alcohol education program. After getting her first job, this former grad student contacted me and asked if she could use the stages of impairment for the alcohol ed class at her institution. I gladly said “yes” and sent them to her. Her colleague, the presenter, was also at the same school, and obviously used them as well. When the presenter left that school and went to another, she took them with her.

I calmly explained to her that I was the person who originally created the graphic representation of the stages (and that another colleague at Delaware had compiled scientific information about the stages, which I had also given to my grad student colleague) and asked if she would give proper credit. She apologized profusely and said she absolutely would. I wonder if she ever did…

I’m comfortable using most copyrighted materials with students, as I am always sure to include a citation for materials I use, indicating that it’s not my own. Most of what I use is statistics (about alcohol consumption and academic honesty violations), but I do also use some video clips that show both academic honesty and dishonesty. I’m not nearly as creative as others and I also don’t want to re-invent the wheel. If someone else has done something creative and engaging and helps students to learn, I’ll gladly use it, but will be sure to give proper credit. The section of the Stanford site titled “Plagiarism, Attribution, and the Public Domain” was particularly important to me.

*PS  – If you’d like to know the correct order of the stages of impairment, let me know!

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