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School Library Opinions Needed on Copyright

The ALA Office for Information Technology Policy will be preparing a book focused on copyright issues and topics in the school environment. We are interested in what school library media specialists think about copyright and how they grapple with copyright at their schools. Your opinion will help us write a book that reflects your concerns and needs, so we ask that you complete the short survey:

All data gathered from the survey will remain anonymous.

Also, if you have any ideas to share with us that you want addressed in the book, please let us know by contacting Carrie Russell, Copyright Specialist at

Thank you for your input!

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.


  1. My first problem is showing videos. We
    ve been told so many different things that I’m not sure just what to think. Our PTA wants to show movies to our students after school at a PTA activity. I am under the impression that we need to buy a license for that purpose. We are about to buy the license. Also, what about showing a video as a prize for a classroom?

    I understand it is against copyright for a teacher to use private software on the school computers. Please clarify that. Thanks much.

  2. Carrie Russell [Visitor] Carrie Russell [Visitor]

    Many people are confused about showing videos at the school, so you are not alone. When we show a movie to a group or to people in a public place, we are “publicly performing” it. The right of public performance is the exclusive right of the copyright holder. So if you show a movie to the public – whether you charge admission or not – you are infringing copyright.

    The law has carved out an exception for non profit educational institutions. This exception says that if you have lawfully acquired (purchased)a video or DVD, you can show that video/DVD in the classroom for teaching purposes.

    If you show a film as a reward, that’s an infringement. same with the PTA, so you should buy a license for those type of performances. You never have to buy a license to show a film in the classroom for teaching purposes.

    On the software question, yes probably the teacher cannot load her software on school computers. This should be stated in the license that she agreed to when she bought the software. I believe that software licenses almost always restrict the owner from using the software on more than one computer.

    These topics will be covered in depth in the upcoming book. Thank you for the feedback. -carrie russell

  3. Re Licenses- it is not necessarily copyright infringement to use private software on the school computers. It is more likely a violation of the license.

    But not all licenses have that restriction. I read pretty much every software license my school uses as part of my job, and some are more generous than others.

    Furthermore, there are many licenses that have a “one at work, one at home” clause in them. So you should probably read the license to actually answer that question. ^^

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