Copyright and education

Copyright law has always allowed tutors to use all kinds of resources in the classroom without restriction, but the situation becomes more complicated as soon as those resources are ‘published’ on Blackboard or another website. Changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 in June 2014 provide an “illustration for instruction” exception which means that tutors can show or play copyrighted material for teaching and assessment purposes as long as:

  • The material is used solely for the purposes of illustration for instruction; and
  • The material is not copied simply for aesthetic effect to make the presentation look good; and
  • The original source is explicitly acknowledged; and
  • The material is stored within a password protected server and restricted to a specific cohort of learners e.g. a PowerPoint file stored in a closed course on the Virtual Learning Environment (Blackboard) or a lecture recording stored on a closed video-repository (e.g. Panopto) to which only a specific cohort of learners has the link to; and
  • The amount of material included for the purposes of illustration for instruction is reasonable and appropriate to the context and is not sufficient to negatively impact on sales of the original material – this relates to the principle of ‘fair dealing’; and
  • Any further copying (for example, by students for their own studies) is fair.

This summary is adapted from guidance developed and kindly shared by the University of Glasgow.

So in summary, only use what is necessary and always cite your sources – so just normal good academic practice.

  • If you want to make use of TV or radio programmes, use the BoB National service – you will find it an easy-to-use and invaluable resource.
  • Never upload journal articles to Blackboard; always provide a link or just the citation so that your students can find it themselves.

Creative Commons and other free-to-use resources

Creative Commons offers a range of licences that enable creators to specify how their works can be used and adapted. For example, some might only require attribute while others might allow only non-commercial use. A special search engine enables you to find resources that match your needs more easily, while the JISC Digital Media site provides advice about searching for all kinds of images, video and sound.

The Open Educational Resources movement encourages educators everywhere to freely share their resources for the benefit of all. You may well have heard of MIT Open Courseware and the OU’s OpenLearn – and there are many other repositories, such as OER Commons.

Here are Southampton we have the EdShare repository which enables you to conveniently store, share and manage resources – as well as find and use those shared by your colleagues. The Faculty of Medicine now stores almost all of its module resources on MedShare so that students can easily access collections of related resources (e.g. about cardiology) across modules and years – and when a resource is updated this also means that every module that links to that resource uses that latest version.