Clarifying Copyright (or least, trying to slightly unmuddy the waters)

I’ve had a number of questions in the last few days as we do a big push on the VLE in gain time about copyright and the VLE. To address these questions as much as I can I’ve written the following page to go on our help page.

I’m putting it up here not as an example of what is right, but simply as what I’ve got so far, and in the hope that if you know better, or have any suggestions on how you could be improved you leave a comment below!

Copyright and the VLE

The law sees a VLE as an extension of the classroom as long as those areas are secure behind a password that only our students can access. This is the case for all the courses beyond the departmental homepage.

This means:

The rules about photocopying articles or sections from a book apply to scanning and making them available on the VLE. You can view the current schools CLA licences here, but basically you can scan a section as a pdf file and add it as a file for students to access. When you do this you must attribute it correctly, including the name of the book and author and follow the rules amount how much of any given text you can copy.

Any resources that you create you can share. Obviously copyright applies to resources you produce as much as anything else. As such you shouldn’t be including copyrighted materials (including images) in your powerpoints and word documents without first getting clearance from the copyright holder.
One way round this is to use images and music released under a Creative Commons rather than a copyright license. Flickr allows you to search for Creative Commons images and Wikimedia Commons contains thousands of materials that are copyright free for various reasons. This site allows you to search a range of sites for creative commons images, music and video, although it’s not the easiest to use site in the world.  Many places are happy to grant copyright uses in an education context, just email them and ask.

One grey area is resources that other people have produced. Most resources that teachers have put online via places like NGfL Cyrmu or the Teachers Resource Exchange are free to use in classrooms and VLEs. If you’re in any doubt just email the person whose site you are using to check they are happy. Many teachers I know put it up, email and then remove it only if they are explicitly told to. While I’m no lawyer and wouldn’t like to comment on whether this follows the letter of the law, it does seem to be common practice and reasonable given that the material is restricted only to students of this school.

I am happy to try and help with any specific inquiries you have, but it is worth pointing out that this whole area of VLE development is new and so the law remains very vague in many places. However both the UK and Welsh Assembly governments are pushing schools to use them in this way, and the whole concept of copyright is being reconsidered in the light of digital innovation.

Be reasonable, ask when you can, and where possible use copyright free materials, but don’t let copyright fear stop you from developing great learning resources!

DS June ’09

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