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Websites and Copyright

Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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A few days ago I went to the annual Book and Library Exhibition in Gothenburg. I wanted to check out new (or for me unknown) authors/books, but I also wanted to see what new was offered within the ICT field.

One of my ideas (traditional - but still something I would like to develop) is to construct some pages for my classes where I can use

- the white board with interaction (I know still traditional stuff...)

- short articles with read text (the audio material could be followed by a colour indication of the parts being read...)

- pictures / audio / video in certain marked parts of the text

- in-depth articles (with a possibility of having an audio file plus maybe the colour indication...)

Since I haven't done this yet I would like to ask you much more experienced members for advice about putting this together. What about copyright to audio / video material like speeches from famous politicians / film/video clips from WWI / WWII etc...? Programs? etc... The idea is to develop some of my pages this way where the development of a forum would follow along...

An interesting observation at this Exhibition was the fact that very little was presented within the ICT field. "Electronic books" which in this case meant books on pdf-files with a sophisticated system of controlling access and one program for audiofiles with colour indications (for people with reading disabilities) was the only things I could find...

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Just a few quick reactions to the message from Anders:

1. Interactive whiteboards: See the REvIEW Project: Research and Evaluation of Interactive Electronic Whiteboards, University of Hull in collaboration with Promethean: http://www.thereviewproject.org

2. Using audio and video materials: We do a lot of this in my subject area, Modern Foreign Languages. See Module 2.2 (Introduction to multimedia CALL) at the ICT4LT website: http://www.ict4lt.org. Module 2.5 and Module 3.2 on authoring one's own materials might be relevant too.

3. Copyright: A can of worms! I have addressed this issue elsewhere in the Forum - I'm not sure where it ended up now. See my guidelines on copyright at http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_copyright.htm - which refers mainly to the situation in the UK. In the UK, copyright on audio and video materials lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which the recording was made. Copyright on printed materials last for 70 years after the death of the author. Basically, if you are putting any kind of material up at a publicly accessible website, you should seek the creator's permission. Material that you gather from other websites is not copyright-free, unless it is specifically stated to be so, so you can't just assemble it and distribute it further via the Web. There is usually a copyright message on websites indicating who owns the materials and what you are allowed to do with them.

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Thank you for your fast response Graham. :)

I agree with you about copyright - It's very hard (or impossible) to really figure out what's the correct procedure. All these problems makes one hesitate using audio and video material of a modern date. There must be a way though to use the material when you create a website that's not a commercial site, or... :blink:

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If you want a quick guide for Sweden, Nätuniversitet has produced a copyright guide for web-based materials. It'll be fine for Anders, but not so useful for everyone else, since it's only in Swedish!

You can access it via http://www.netuniversity.se and then go forward to Legala handboken, or you can go there directly via:


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I think it is important to think about why we have copyright law. The main intention is to make sure the artist receives the maximum revenue for their work. Artists therefore mainly object to those actions that attempt to reduce their financial rewards. They usually do not complain if you use a small section of their work in order to promote it. This is what happens when writers quote extracts of the book in newspaper or magazine reviews. The writer or publisher would be silly to complain as the quotation should increase sales.

If you want to quote from a published work I would suggest you provide a link that enables your visitor to buy a copy of the book. I would adopt the same procedure when quoting from material on another website.

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Anders asks:

... but what about video/film-sequences and audiomaterial. If I want to put a JFK speech into my website - what are the general rules / law?

I wouldn't DARE make such materials public without consulting the owner of the rights to the recording. Under UK law, making public any copyright audio or video material that has been produced in the last 50 years could be in breach of copyright. Copyright clearance MUST be obtained - unless there is a clear indication in the information about ownership that it it copyright-free. It makes no difference whether the materials are sold or offered for free, e.g. on an educational website.

Texts and images are also subject to copyright law. I wouldn't reproduce someone else's text on a public website, unless it's just a properly referenced short quotation from a complete work. A work can be a novel, a speech, a poem, a short story, etc. I would be particularly careful about reproducing images as legislation with regard to reproducing images (in the UK, at least) is particularly stringent. My daughter is a professional graphic designer and her advice is: "If you haven't created the image yourself or haven't bought rights to use it then don't use it!" Note, however, that certain clipart images and photographs are copyright-free for educational purposes, but only within a physical classroom and not for use in a "virtual classroom", e.g. on the Web.

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Guest Chris Sweeney

I just want to say that the sites you posted up, Graham, have been EXTREMELY useful to me. Thanks a lot.

I must admit that in common with many people who don't make their living from selling their work (I have always given mine away to my LEA), I am less - robust, shall we say? - about copyright. But the sharing websites you mention are excellent and I have signed up to them, and perhaps I will even come round in part, to your way of thinking about copyright!

To some extent. I am still in a quandary about it.

Perhaps this deserves an extra discussion thread of its own, or this may be the thread to have it? That is, the thorny issue of WWW copyright and the right of the individual who posts on it to own their 'intellectual property'?

I am sure that you have done this before, but I am asking for it to be done in short word-bites for the non-ICT expert - and here rather than through the reading of information on links that are posted up by experts who already know about it all. It is not the way the rest of us think, I suspect. As much as we would want to be people who read extensive background materials, I suspect that most of us don't think like that. So an on-line, instant discussion may be useful (as opposed to those useful links!?).

As a teacher I have been dismayed at the lack of rights I have to own my material - and thus control it's distribution. I was, for instance, dismayed to see a worksheet I had designed and produced, published in a national QCA publication that they claimed as their own....

I don't want to sue, of course - anyone who knows me the through the Language List would know that I am a great believer in teachers sharing what we produce with each other...

Nonetheless, one wonders.

Graham, who makes his living from selling his intellectual ideas, may have one viewpoint, but what of the rest of us? It is one thing when WE send each other material - but it is another when a national or commercial body makes money out of our material?

How does anyone else feel about this issue and just where would YOU draw the line (as a layman/women, so-to-speak)?

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Just another quickie mainly for Anders. The University of Gothenburg hosts an on-line 5p course called VIND, which I think stands for something like Video in Distance Education, aimed at people who want to include video sequences on on-line courses. I'm fairly sure that they must have taken this question up in a Swedish context.

I'm sure you know about the BONUS-agreement for the educational use of printed materials in Sweden. It wouldn't surprise me if there isn't a similar agreement for pictures and video clips.

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One area which I use is campaigns - whether anti-smoking, OXFAM, refugee council, campaigns against the arms trade (and dare I mention Democracy Now and Indymedia...even the CWI).....campaigning organisations are more concerned with getting their message across than in preserving their copyright.

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I think it would be a great shame if someone like Anders who is just starting out on creating what looks like will become a great web site got bogged down worrying about copyright issues.

I follow the practice identified by John - if I use someone's stuff I create a link back to their web site thereby promoting their site and mine. It works rather well and I am yet to be sued :)

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Chris raises several important issues.

I derive about half my annual income from selling software that I have written. It’s not a great sum of money - roughly half the annual income of an average teacher. Naturally, I feel very strongly about copyright. I have only had to take serious action to protect my rights on one occasion – when an LEA ICT centre adapted a piece of software that I had written and began to sell the adaptation. When I approached the LEA about this they closed ranks and called in their big-gun lawyers to defend what they had done. Legal action against the LEA was out of the question for me. The legal advice from our family lawyer was not to go to court, as it it could prove expensive, but to contact every possible organisation through which the LEA might publicise the adapted package, i.e. to blacken their name. This I did, and it was very effective. Within a matter of months the LEA was ostracised from conferences at which they might present the adapted package, and government agencies refused to publicise it. The adaptation swiftly disappeared into oblivion.

I have also written lots of materials that are available free of charge, e.g. the materials at the ICT4LT site (http://www.ict4lt.org) and at my own website (http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk). I don’t object to teachers making multiple copies of these materials and using them for non-commercial educational purposes, subject to due acknowledgement of the source. I do object – and I have done so on two occasions, when I found my materials appearing without an acknowledgement on someone else’s website. On each occasion I admonished the offender and asked them to remove the materials from their website – which they did.

Chris writes:

As a teacher I have been dismayed at the lack of rights I have to own my material - and thus control it's distribution. I was, for instance, dismayed to see a worksheet I had designed and produced, published in a national QCA publication that they claimed as their own...

You have considerable rights and you can exercise them with the full backing of the law. I would be furious if someone published my work without asking me and I would challenge the publisher immediately. You automatically have copyright on any original work that you create. If a work has been created as part of your employment duties then, unless a contract specifically states otherwise, the copyright resides with yourself. You have a good case for complaint - and may even be able to demand a retrospective fee. I know of one teacher who succeeded in obtaining a fee in a similar situation. He found a photograph of a street scene that he had taken in Berlin appearing on the cover of a published pamphlet. He recognised the photograph from the passers-by who appeared in it.

Chris writes:

Perhaps this deserves an extra discussion thread of its own, or this may be the thread to have it? That is, the thorny issue of WWW copyright and the right of the individual who posts on it to own their 'intellectual property'?

As I have indicated above, you automatically have copyright on anything original that you create. Your message to this Forum and my reply, for example, are subject to copyright. Materials posted on the Web are subject to the same law as any other published materials. If I write a text, take a photograph, make an audio or video recording and publish it on the Web I still have intellectual property rights with regard to such materials. Just because they appear on the Web they do not automatically become freely available for all and sundry to do what they like with them.

There are several relevant documents at BECTA's ICT Advice site: http://www.ictadvice.org.uk

Search the site under "copyright" to find them. Here are some important points that have been extracted from the documents at the ICT Advice site:

* Copyright information often appears on a Web page, usually at the bottom of the page. This tells you what you are allowed or not allowed to do with the Web page. If the conditions of use of the Web page are not clearly defined or are severely restricted, contact the site owner or webmaster to request permission to use the page, stating clearly what you intend to do with it, e.g. make multiple copies for classroom use. Permission is only granted at the discretion of the copyright holder, who may wish to charge a fee for such use.

* Fair dealing permits certain acts without requiring the permission of the copyright owner. These include what is reasonable for private study and research. Making multiple copies for classroom use has been established as being outside the definition of fair dealing. You are normally allowed to:

i. make a temporary copy of a Web page, otherwise known as caching, as it is integral to accessing the Internet;

ii. print a single copy of a Web page, although not the whole website, for private study or research;

iii. make a single copy of a Web page, although not the whole website, to a hard drive or floppy disk, as long as it is not for the purpose of producing multiple copies;

iv. quote from a Web page as long as the source is acknowledged and it is for the purpose of criticism or review;

v. make a temporary copy of a Web page for the purpose of electronic transmission such as email, to an individual for their private study or research. The copy should be deleted as soon as the transmission is complete.

* Fair dealing ceases if:

i. a single electronic copy is made with the intention of producing multiple copies or redistributing it either in paper form or electronically;

ii. it is known that a licence is available to permit copying, but has not been sought;

iii. the copies are used commercially, sold or hired, whether it was the original intention or not when the copying took place;

iv. the copy is made publicly available, such as on a website, without the permission of the copyright holder.

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I really appreciate this extensive answer Graham. I have basic knowledge on how to deal with written material - books, articles, webpages... but as I said in the beginning I'm a bit less sure what rules apply to video/films/audio material. From what you written and through some of the suggested links I start to get an idea. From what I understand it's difficult (if not impossible) to get the material that I desire to use and it's obvious to me that most websites break some of the rules that apply to this kind of material...

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I really find it difficult to understand why teachers get so confused about copyright and the Web. If you place materials on a publicly accessible website you are a publisher and thereby subject to the same copyright constraints as any other publisher.

I am currently writing an article for an encyclopaedia to be published by Elsevier, a major international publishing company. The article includes eight screenshots taken from other published materials, namely CD-ROMs and websites. I have had to write to the copyright owner of each CD-ROM and website to seek permission to publish these screenshots, and I have to present a signed form to Elsevier from each publisher confirming that they have given permission for the screenshots to be published. This is standard procedure. It is common courtesy to ask for permission and, as I have indicated many times before, you may be breaking copyright law if you fail to obtain permission.

Regarding audio and video materials, the same rules apply. The next time that you watch a feature film or a documentary on TV, look at the credits and acknowledgments at the end. You will find that the source of every piece of music that has been played and every video clip that has been shown in the film is documented. The film production company has sought permission for these recordings to be played and video clips to be shown, and has probably paid a fee to the copyright owners. You have to do the same if you are making materials public. As I indicated before, there are no special concessions for education, and it does not matter whether you are publishing in order to share resources free of charge or for commercial gain. Publishing on the Web is quite different from using materials in the classroom, where there are substantial concessions for education, e.g. as embodied in the terms of the Copyright Licensing Agency and the Educational Recording Agency in the UK.

You may find material that is stated to be copyright-free or in the public domain, and the terms of using it are much more liberal - look for a clear statement saying "This video recording is in the public domain" or something similar.

A good example of a Web page containing archive video clips is the BBC site on WWII: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and look at the terms. These include, for example the following statement:

"You may not copy, reproduce, republish, download, post, broadcast, transmit, make available to the public, or otherwise use bbc.co.uk content in any way except for your own personal, non-commercial use. You also agree not to adapt, alter or create a derivative work from any bbc.co.uk content except for your own personal, non-commercial use. Any other use of bbc.co.uk content requires the prior written permission of the BBC."

The key phrase here is personal use, i.e. not public use. Posting something on the Web constitutes public use.

A useful Web page is Brad Templeton’s “10 Big Myths about copyright explained”:


It’s mainly about copyright legislation in the USA, but international copyright legislation is tending to converge these days, and a good deal of what he says applies to most European countries.

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