Book excerpt: Staying legal when adapting material for education

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, February 18, 2011

Staff development professionals often wonder whether the work they use as resources when developing education is copyrighted and how they are allowed to use it without violating the law.

"Fair use" is the allowable use of limited amounts of a copyrighted work for the purpose of criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research without getting permission from the copyright holder. Many staff development professionals are unsure whether their educational work fits under the fair use guidelines.

According to Bitlaw (2008), there are four factors to consider when determining whether something can be considered fair use:

  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of the copyrighted work

If you need to decide whether your use of copyrighted work will be fair use, consider whether you are using the copied work to create something new. Fair use often means creating something new with the copied material.

Source: Adapted from Innovation in Nursing Staff Development: Teaching Strategies to Enhance Learner Outcomes by Adrianne E. Avillion, DEd, RN, Mary E. Holtschneider, RN-BC, BSN, MPA, NREMT-P, and Linda R. Puetz, BA, BSN, RN, MEd. For more information, visit

Most Popular