Practicum Week 8: Copyright & Fair Use

(This practicum reflection was written in March, 2015.)

This week my mentors and I continued to work on March Reading Madness and Scholastic Book Fair-related tasks.  Today was the last day of the book fair, and we very happily packed up everything and printed out necessary sales reports.  Next week we’ll have one last thing to juggle!  I got a chance to direct parent volunteers as they came in to help with various aspects of MRM (decorate raffle prize case, hang up posters, deliver program kits to teachers, etc.), and was finally able to finish our display for the book bracket and get the online voting form going.

A couple of interesting things happened this week:

  1. My mentor warned me this might happen, but I actually caught a few kids trying to shoplift from the book fair!  I hate being the “bad guy” — especially since I am a new face in the media center — so I pointed the kids out to my mentor when I suspected something was happening.  She said that usually, the problem is easily solved when she walks over and asks — in a friendly way — whether they need help, or simply ask, “Are you buying that?  If not, try not to play with it too much.”  Sure enough, when she did this, the kids stopped what they were doing and left.  I guess one thing I need to do between now and getting a real job in the library is to grow a thicker skin…or rather, shed the side of me that is afraid of confrontation/needs to be liked by everyone.
  2. On Dr. Seuss Day, one of the parapros came in and asked if we could play “Horton Hears a Who” on the TV in the cafeteria during the students’ lunch hour.  We didn’t think anything of it, created the request form, and let them play the video.  At the end of the day though, my mentor received an email from the school’s tech facilitator, who had heard about this and questioned whether she had violated a copyright/fair use rule.  When my mentor turned to me for my opinion, my first instinct was that no, this wasn’t a violation, but an instance of fair use (I was just studying this for my Comps!).  However, because I am a huge nerd, I decided to do a bit more research (also in case the tech facilitator asks for “proof” that we were right).  Apparently, while showing a movie (or a clip of a movie) in a classroom or similar instructional setting is considered fair use — it has instructional purpose — showing it in the cafeteria as a celebration makes the showing an instance of “public performance” and therefore a violation of copyright laws.  I am assuming, then, that even showing a movie inside a classroom, if it’s not for “education”, but for “entertainment” (e.g. during class parties, etc.), is also a violation of copyright/fair use?  Am I understanding it correctly?

According to my mentor, showing movies during celebrations/parties has always been a sore spot for the tech facilitator in this district, and in the past the teachers/media specialists have always played ignorant.  I know from my kids being in school that movies are played all the time during parties or celebrations.  What would you do if you were approached (by teachers, principals, etc.) about playing a movie in such circumstances (non-educational) and you were aware of the copyright/fair use rule against such activities?  Would you stick to the rule books, or turn a blind eye since this is something that’s done everywhere???


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