Copyright is a complex subject. It is also not a particularly exciting subject. It is, however, an important subject. In this post I am going to break it down into three sections that will hopefully get you to understand a little bit about why we all need to worry about copyright material. The three questions are:
- Why should I bother with copyright?
- What am I really after?
- How can I achieve my aims while adhering to the rules?
Firstly, before I answer these questions, I’d like to direct your attention to David Sherren’s article on copyright. David is the University copyright guru and should be able to offer advice and guidance for all specific questions on the subject. So onto the first question.
- Why should I bother with copyright?
I can think of at least two good answers. Firstly, how would you like it if someone stole from you and infringed your copyright? Secondly, there’s a chance of suffering financial loss.
A. How would you like it?
Suppose you have worked hard on something (an article, a piece of creative writing or audio/visual project perhaps) or you have simply uploaded a photo onto a social media platform. That piece of work is yours. If someone takes your work and uses it without permission, that would surely strike you as a little unfair. What if they then made money from your source materia
B. Financial loss.
If you take other’s work and use it the original authors might consider themselves entitled to payment for the reproduction of their work. Many times I hear the response “but it’s for educational purposes”. This argument only holds true in a limited number of situations and areas. The problem comes down to the wording of “educational use”. Education use generally allows any image to be used as part of a lecture or seminar; however, if the image is in a PowerPoint presentation that is then placed into Moodle or the web as a file (native or PDF) then this is classed as distribution and is no longer covered by the educational licence. This is a terribly grey area, as the British Library highlight with their explanation of fair use of works.
“A statutory definition for fair dealing does not exist; it will always be a matter of fact, degree and interpretation in every fair use case. Nor is there a percentage or quantitative measure to determine fair dealing.”
Essentially, as the user responsible for infringing copyright, would you take the risk of being the person financially liable for infringement?
For further information around real-world copyright cases and why it is important to maintain copyright please refer to the cases listed below.
- German school sued for copyright
- 5 Famous copyright infringement cases
- List of copyright cases
- Exceptions to copyright within education
- Further details on fair use of copyright material
2. What am I really after?
When I run my training session on copyright I pose the question of specificity: how specific does your search need to be? If you are really after a particular photo from the Pontiac Correctional Center 1978 riot then you might be unable to find something that is copyright cleared. However, if you really just need a photo to illustrate the police or a prison maybe even the situation following a riot these can all be found using a Creative Commons or royalty free image database.
3. How can I achieve my aims while adhering to the rules?
This can be a tricky question. I suggest that the first step is just to ask yourself: “Should I really be using this resource?” If you are unsure of the answer then contact myself or, for a more comprehensive answer, David Sherren. We will attempt to clarify if you are able to use the material. It helps if you can provide us with all the information of where, when, and how you acquired the material.
Tips on copyright
- Keep a Google Drive folder that contains all of the material and as Spreadsheet with all the information needed to demonstrate the nature of the copyright.
- Use a search facility that provides royalty free and copyright clear material. (Flickr, Unsplash and Creative Commons) Remember to filter Flickr searches to be creative commons otherwise some of the images may not be royalty free and infringing someone else’s work.
- Linking to material directly rather than downloading it.
- Refer to the Library materials on copyright.
- Refer to the Library catalogue for relevant databases of useable material.
- Find legitimate streaming services for streaming TV programs.
- Remember, there are a lot of myths that need debunking around copyright.
- If you have an image that you are trying to find the source for, use something like TinEye.
- If you are ever unsure – just ask.