Copyright Issues of Social Media and Fair Use

Social Media

I was introduced to the idea of social media and copyright issues at the 10th Annual Copyright Conference presented by Ball State University in April this year. Moran, Seaman and Tinti-Kane (2011) report most faculty are using social media in classes, and that 20% of faculty have required students to comment on or post to a social media site. Any assignment to post online also provides an opportunity for misuse of copyrighted photos, videos, text and other materials.

Put simply, students and faculty should not post materials for which they do not own the copyright. Social media postings, including those required for class purposes, are covered by the same copyright considerations as any other form of publication. Posting links to those copyrighted online resources is usually acceptable. Faculty may wish to inform students that copyright restrictions apply to postings to social media sites. This could be accomplished with a syllabus statement or an identified link to the appropriate campus policy on the use of copyrighted materials. An example can be viewed at

Fair Use

The conference also expanded my understanding of Fair Use of copyrighted works. There are four factors to consider when determining whether a specific use would be allowed under Fair Use: 1) Purpose, 2) Nature, 3) Amount and 4) Effect. A scenario presented by the experts described a university class that watched an entire movie. The teaching aspect tends to favor Fair Use but using the entire movie tends to oppose Fair Use. The experts revealed more details, stating this was a class for Theatre majors and the purpose of watching the movie was to evaluate the acting of a particular character. Fair Use is favored when the amount used is appropriate for the educational purpose. In this case, the experts explained, the use of the entire movie was warranted to achieve the educational goal. This was initially a big surprise to me. My limited understanding of Fair Use focused on using a small quantity of the copyrighted work. However, this scenario helped me see that determining Fair Use requires a more nuanced evaluation.

Other articles in this series on Copyright Issues include Licensing Basics and Permissions by Wei Liu Zakharov and Akesha Horton’s Creative Commons and Copyright.


  1. Moran, M., Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2011). Teaching, Learning, and Sharing: How Today’s Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media.
  2. Purdue University Instructional Development Center. (2013). Social Media Guidelines for Teaching and Learning. Manuscript in preparation.


Writer: Dean Brusnighan, ITaP Assistive Technology Specialist

This entry was posted in General Education, Professional Development and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Copyright Issues of Social Media and Fair Use

  1. Joel says:

    An increasing amount of publishing going on online is circumventing the rights issue by using Creative Commons. We’ve found that our artists and authors are more interested in finding a community to write and develop in than in trying to preserve conventional rights.

    Joel Stottlemire, Chief Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *