Skip to main content

Copyright Law and Fair Use for Journalists

About This Course

This course is intended to help online content publishers, social media participants and website publishers understand the fair use doctrine and copyright law.

This course specifically address both how the doctrine of fair use lets people legally publish content created by others and how copyright protects creators of content from the illegal use and reproduction of their content. In doing so, this course helps journalists understand where these concepts intersect and where they might collide.

Fair use is a complex area of copyright law. Publishers have a love-hate relationship with fair use. On one hand, it lets them legally repurpose existing copyrighted material. On the other hand, publishers want to prevent others from stealing their own content and republishing it illegally.

It is wise to exercise caution when using work created by someone else; this shows an awareness of the content creator's rights. However, an underlying principle of fair use is to promote and build upon the existing work of others to further develop innovative ideas. The Creative Commons movement has introduced additional complexities.

Publishers and those in the legal community vary widely in their opinions of fair use. Their perspectives are explored in a thoughtful and productive way throughout this course.

This course addresses legal issues in a practical way. It explains how fair use applies in the digital space, as there is a lack of guidance offered by existing case law.

What will I learn?

  • What the fair use doctrine is and how it dovetails with copyright law
  • How you can legally publish content created by others under the doctrine of fair use
  • How to avoid pitfalls through an understanding of how copyright law protects content
  • How fair use and copyright law apply to content published online and in social media

Who Should Take This Course?

Online, print and broadcast publishers, editors and content creators, including bloggers, educators, anyone who posts content to social media sites.

Course Instructors

Ellyn Angelotti Kamke

Ellyn Angelotti Kamke

Ellyn Kamke is associate corporate counsel on the Raymond James legal team. Prior to Raymond James, Kamke was Poynter's Staff Counsel and Director of Business Development. As in-house counsel and a member of Poynter's senior leadership team, she advised on legal issues and policies and led contract drafting and negotiations. She also played a key role in developing and growing business opportunities for Poynter.

She received her Juris Doctorate from Stetson University College of Law where she was also awarded the Judge Raphael Steindhardt award for character and leadership. Kamke, who is a member of the Florida Bar, practiced law at Rahdert, Steele, Reynolds & Driscoll, P.L. She is on the Board of Trustees for American Stage Theater.

Angelotti Kamke is the presenter of several Webinars at NewsU, including Measuring Your Social Media Impact and Navigating Copyright and Fair Use Issues in an Open-Source World.

While at The Poynter Institute in 2007, Kamke helped Poynter explore the intersection of journalism, technology and the law. She led programs in Barbados, Brazil, Qatar and South Africa. As a judge for national multimedia journalism contests, including the National Press Photographers Association Awards and E.W. Scripps National Journalism Awards, she has studied and taught about best practices in innovative storytelling.

Before coming to Poynter, Angelotti Kamke directed award-winning, nontraditional multimedia sports content at the Naples Daily News in Florida. There she created and produced two interactive vodcasts, “PrepZone” and “Blades Playbook,” which won the Newspaper Association of America’s Digital Edge Award for Most Innovative Multimedia Storytelling. While attending the University of Kansas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and journalism, she worked at the Lawrence Journal-World as multimedia journalist. There she helped launch two award-winning websites and weekly print products, “Game” and “The Lansing Current.”

Catherine Cameron

Catherine Cameron

Catherine Cameron is a professor at Stetson College of Law in Tampa, Florida. She teaches and researches in the areas of legal writing and media law. She has written several articles on media law and legal writing topics and has given presentations at national conferences on these topics as well. She has been a faculty advisor for the First Amendment Moot Court team and the ADR Board Negotiation team. She is also a faculty coordinator for the Florida Circuit Court (Trial) Internship.

Cameron earned a bachelor's degree in journalism, a master's degree in mass communications, and a law degree from the University of Florida. She worked for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a non-profit organization that specializes in media law issues in Washington, D.C., where she filed amicus briefs in high-profile cases affecting the media, including two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. She also spent several years working as a staff attorney for the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit before joining Stetson's faculty.


Knight Foundation

The Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation advances journalism in the digital age and invests in the vitality of communities where the Knight Brothers owned newspapers. The Knight Foundation focuses on projects that promote community engagement and lead to transformational change.

This $30 course is free thanks to the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What web browser should I use?

The Open edX platform works best with current versions of Chrome, Firefox or Safari, or with Internet Explorer version 9 and above.

See our list of supported browsers for the most up-to-date information.