CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology

Copyright Compliance Made Simple

Posted by ctlt on May 27, 2009

Following lunch, we participated in a virtual presentation on copyright law and the design of online courses, led by Professor Linda K. Enghagen, J.D., from the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts.

Linda made clear that she was presenting this information for educational purposes, and that her presentation should not be construed as legal advice, or rendering a legal opinion.

American copyright law has its basis in a clause from Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution states that copyright is granted to “promote the progress of science and the useful arts” by securing exclusive right for limited time for creators and inventors for the use of their “writings and discoveries.” The laws that have evolved from this basic premise establish a framework for balancing rights and interests of creators and those who acquire rights for specific uses of copyrighted materials, after creative ideas are “expressed in a fixed, tangible form.”

After reviewing the basics of copyright law and dispelling some popular myths about educational uses of copyrighted materials, Linda set forth six rules to make copyright compliance simple when designing online (or blended) courses. These rules discuss the use of copyrighted materials if you own the copyright, the use of materials if they are not protected by copyright (for example, works in the public domain). You may not use materials you haven’t acquired lawfully. You may use materials you have lawfully acquired or lawfully accessed, provided you use them “in a manner consistent with their intended purpose.” You may not use materials in a manner that is contrary to the intended purpose of the materials (copying and distributing course materials that publishers intend students to buy, for example).

Linda also provided an extended discussion of the provisions for Fair Use and referred participants to Stanford University’s Copyright and Fair Use Center for additional information. Finally, Linda discussed the TEACH Act, and its implications for distance education and online coursework. The TEACH Act imposes some “affirmative obligations” on educational institutions, and allows “expanded rights for using copyright protected works in distance learning courses.”

Linda referred participants to two of her publications: Fair Use Guidelines for Educators, Fourth Edition and “Copyright Compliance Made Simple: Six Rules for Course Design,” both of which are available from the Sloan Consortium, on their Workshop Companion Publications Web page.

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