Your Questions, Answered
Can a yearbook get in trouble for printing famous quotes and lyrics in its advertisement pages?
Because yearbooks aren't created to make profits, using song lyrics or a book quote in a yearbook ad would probably count as educational fair use, so wouldn't violate copyright.See our response
Can a school stop you from saying "God bless the United States" over the morning announcements?
The Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects your expression. But, the First Amendment also has an Establishment Clause, which bars any government actor, like your public school, from promoting an establishment of religion. In general, schools have wide authority to shut down speech solely because it is religious. Whether they can shut down speech under the Establishment Clause or if it is protected under the Free Speech Clause depends on two questions: (1) whether the students hearing the message are a “captive audience,” and (2) whether the student’s statement constitutes religious speech.See our response
Does a school have the right to use a student journalist's photo?
In general, a creative work like a photograph is owned by the creator of the work, even if they are a student journalist. However, the school might have some rights to use a student journalist's photos, especially if they signed an agreement.See our response
What is Creative Commons? How do you know if something is in the public domain? What does all this have to do with copyright?
There are a lot of ways you can incorporate images, videos, and even music into your videos without violating anyone’s copyright. You could use your own content, content in the public domain, content available through Creative Commons, or content that is someone else’s but your use is fair use.See our response
Does reporting on a student's suicide violate privacy?
A family likely cannot get the principal to remove the story due to the legal reason of invasion of privacy. However, as journalists, ethically, you should consider the feelings of the family in your publication, and treat the issue with respect, focusing on the life of the student, rather than their death.See our response
Your Guide to FERPA
FERPA is a law designed to protect the privacy of students. While it seems simple, how and when this law applies can be a little complicated.See our response
Can high school students get together to protest school decisions on campus during school hours?
You’re passionate about an issue and you want to take a stance. So, you gather up a bunch of students and organize a protest—a sit-in, a walk-out, a picket line, etc. But does the school have the power to shut it down? Aren’t these protests protected by the First Amendment?See our response
Can a school enforce lockdown procedures to prevent a student protest?
At school this week, all the students planned to take part in the #walkout movement—walking out of class and standing in the halls in protest of gun violence in schools. Students at plenty of other schools walked out of their classrooms, but our school was put into lockdown mode to stop the demonstration. Can the school do that? Doesn’t that violate our free speech rights?See our response
Can I get in trouble for posting something mean about one of my teachers online?
A student at my school posted a mean comment about a math teacher on Facebook, saying “Ms. Smith is a f***ing bitch and is really a shitty teacher.” During school, ten other students “liked” the comment. The principal heard about the post and threatened to suspend the student who posted it and give anyone who “liked” it a detention. Can the school punish a student for venting on social media?See our response
Do I have to pay for the information I ask for in a FOIA request?
I’m on the student newspaper and I wanted to find out why my school made so many changes to our school lunch program recently. I submitted a FOIA request asking to see all of the principal’s email messages in the past year. The school told me it was going to charge me $5,000 to turn over the emails! I can’t afford that, so I can’t do the story. Is this right? Can the school charge me this much? Aren’t the emails public info?See our response
Can we use a popular song as background music for a video that will be played at graduation?
You can likely use popular songs as background music in your graduation video because it is a fair use of the songs and no money is made from using the songs.See our response
Can I use 30 seconds of a Beyoncé song in the background of my video?
No, even if it’s only 30 seconds, its still likely to infringe Beyoncé’s copyright.See our response