03 feb 2023
Legalities can be confusing when it comes to making a digital copy of students’ work. In this blog post, we will answer several questions people sometimes feel uneasy about, such as “Is it legal to photocopy students’ work?” and “Is it okay to share students’ work online?”
According to copyright law in the US and the UK, the creator of the original work owns the copyright. So technically, students, as creators of their work, are no exception. However, it doesn’t mean teachers can’t use or make copies of their students’ work.
From a legal point of view, when students submit their assignments for grading, they give their teacher the right to:
In the US, such use is within the limits of fair use, according to section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act, because the purpose of the use is purely educational.
The UK “fair dealing” described in section 32 of the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988, and the US “fair use” are fairly similar but cannot be used interchangeably. However, in this case, both fair dealing and fair use principles view the issue similarly. That is to say that when students submit their work for grading, the teacher has the right to read it, make all copies required to perform the task, and use it in class for illustrative and instructive purposes.
However, if multiple copies are made to be used as student handouts, certain requirements need to be met. Only a portion of the copyrighted work can be used, and there has to be a copyright attribution.
While it’s perfectly legal to photocopy students’ work for educational purposes, sharing it online is a bit less straightforward from a legal standpoint. Posting students’ work online means using it outside the classroom context, which raises copyright concerns. Technically, publishing any student’s work without the author’s permission might be considered copyright infringement.
The safest approach would be to get written consent from students before sharing their work online. It might sound like a lot of hustle, but creating a consent form template can simplify the process a great deal.
Also, in the US, students’ assignments may or may not be protected under FERPA. The problem with FERPA is that schools’ definitions of what constitutes an “educational record” can differ. If you have your students complete and sign a consent form, you’ll no longer have to worry about copyright or FERPA when sharing their work online.
If you’d like a downloadable, printable version of this post, we’ve prepared a brief PDF summary—please don’t hesitate to download and share it with colleagues who might be interested.
The information provided in this blog post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
With legal concerns out of the way, there’s still the technical side of digitizing students’ work. Schools have traditional office scanners available for staff, but office machines tend to be occupied or out of order when you need them. Plus, they’re not always compatible with mobile devices.
Luckily, there are many more 21st-century solutions. Mobile scanning apps are far superior to office machines for scanning students’ work for several reasons:
If you’ve never tried mobile scanners, you’ve got to give them a go and see for yourself how helpful they can be. There are plenty of scanning apps out there, but it makes sense to start with the best. The rule of thumb is to choose apps with at least 10M downloads and a rating of 4.5 or higher. Social proof, like awards, is also a useful indicator.
iScanner, for example, has won the Best Mobile App of the Year Award and has over 80M users. Also, there is a special program for educators which means that if you’re employed with an educational institution, you get a premium subscription for free.