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Copyright in a Social World

By Kathryn Metzinger Miller - Posted May 1, 2008
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Just when you thought you understood how to fully integrate internet learning into your curriculum, Web 2.0 came along. What is Web 2.0? It consists of internet-hosted services that enable users to interact on the World Wide Web. Web 2.0 is the social side of the internet where people can communicate with others and contribute their own content; this is known as "social networking."

Examples of Web 2.0 social networking services include YouTube, MySpace, and Flickr. As a librarian you should be able to communicate with students, parents, and teachers the issues that they face when placing materials on Web 2.0 social networks.


One issue prevalent with students’ use of social networks, either within or beyond the library’s walls, is copyright. Copyright is a difficult law to fully understand; the law has quite a bit of room for personal interpretation. A basic comprehension of copyright law sets the foundation needed for librarians to understand the rights and challenges their communities face when using social networks.

Copyright is a federal law that aims to protect the rights of a content creator, thus encouraging people to develop new ideas and create original content. Copyright law gives a content creator the exclusive right to use his or her material for any purpose or to transfer that right to another person or entity. Operating parallel to this exclusive right are copyright exceptions, including the heavily debated and often used exception of fair use. Fair use is a balancing test on which users of copyrighted materials balance the purpose, amount, nature, or effect of the use with the copyright holder’s rights. Fair use is often used in education and can allow teachers and librarians to use materials that otherwise would have to be paid for if used. Copyright laws were created before the computer, before online learning, and before social networking. These laws, however, are the ones we must use today.

The application of copyright law to social networking is important for librarians. This article looks at several situations in which library users may use popular social networking sites and confront copyright laws.



This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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