Seven tips to help you understand copyright
If you find an image on Google, can you publicly post it elsewhere? The answer to this question depends on several considerations about using other people’s work that you should be aware of.
The issue of copyright is one that needs to be top of mind and clearly understood by all learners and faculty at Athabasca University (AU).
“Right now in particular, as we review our course content in preparation for the Integrated Learning Environment (ILE), it’s a critical time to make sure people understand the importance of copyright and to correct misconceptions about it,” said Alain May, associate vice-president of academic resources.
“When we go live with the ILE, we don’t want everybody to have to suddenly make changes. Let’s build knowledge, understanding and copyright compliance now, so that we have a smoother implementation.”
To that end, the following are answers to questions and helpful copyright tips to prepare for the ILE and arm learners and faculty with useful copyright information and resources.
What is copyright?
Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects the person who creates original work—such as writing, music, photographs, videos, infographics, and dramatic works—from being copied or reproduced without the creator’s permission. That’s why learners and faculty can’t copy, publish, or reproduce someone else’s work unless they have official permission to do so.
However, there are exceptions and plenty of content available that are free to use. These seven tips will help you avoid copyright infringement.
1. Use content that explicitly says you can share and distribute it
There are various websites that are set up specifically to allow users to share and use content without infringing copyright. A good example is MERLOT, an international online community of educators, learners, and researchers. Although there are some rights reserved, it allows its members to use and create content for free. MERLOT has nearly 95,000 learning resources.
2. Find new content in the public domain
Content that’s in the public domain refers to creative materials that are owned by the public and not a person, which means it’s not protected by copyright. How do you find public domain content?
“Project Gutenberg is a great example of this,” said AU Copyright Officer Rachel Conroy. “They are making works in the public domain freely accessible and available online by digitizing them. I believe the library has grown to around 60,000 freely available ebooks.”
3. Find royalty-free and Creative Commons content
“Creative Commons licensing is a way for content creators to clearly identify and communicate to the users of their content, how their materials can be reproduced and distributed,” Conroy said. “There are several types of licensing options available for creators to select from and attach to the works they create, including some that are far less restrictive.”
For example, Open Educational Resources (OER) Commons is a public digital library of open educational resources, offering materials for learners and instructors that are royalty free. The forum was specifically designed for Creative Commons.
4. Link to content rather than copying and pasting it
To steer clear of copyright issues, instead of copying and pasting content from a journal article, for example, just link to it. The content in the assignment or academic piece you are working on will still be compelling and you can avoid concerns about who owns the content or having to pay for the intellectual property.
5. Leverage AU’s Library of subscribed and licensed materials
The AU Library and Scholarly Resources has an extensive collection of e-journals, ebooks, and other materials for faculty to use in their courses. These materials have already been licensed for use by AU Library patrons, so you don’t need copyright permission to link to them. Contact the AU library by email for help locating electronic resources.
6. Understand and follow AU’s fair dealing policy
Fair dealing allows a person to use or “deal” with a copyright-protected work without requiring permission or paying copyright royalties. There is a fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act.
“(It) allows for, in some cases, the use and reproduction of substantial or full amounts of a work for the purposes of research, education, parody and satire,” Conroy said. “The end use must also, generally speaking, be for non-commercial purposes and must also meet the criteria for determining fairness as provided to us by the Supreme Court of Canada.”
To learn more, please review AU’s Fair Dealing Policy and Procedures.
7. Secure copyright permission as early as you can
“For faculty, obtaining copyright permissions can be a lengthy process,” Conroy said. “We remain at the mercy of rights holders’ timely responses to us, so ensuring (we source) information early in the course-development process allows us the time we need to secure copyright permission.”
If you’re a learner and you’ve created original content, you own the copyright of it. Make sure no one else is using your work without your permission.
“It is your job to protect your work in an all rights reserved manner,” she said. “Also, perhaps consider helping any content users actually use your content in the ways that you might allow for. This can be easily done by attaching a Creative Commons licence to it.”