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Copyright and Online Classes
When you're teaching a class in person and showing famous works of art in a powerpoint presentation, or sharing a handout with your students that has copyrighted material in it, it's not something you usually worry about. What you're doing falls under the "fair use" clause of copyright law, which allows teachers to share and show copyrighted information with their students in the context of a classroom.
But what about teaching online? What if you want to upload your handout for students to download? What if you want to record your teaching session so people can watch it later? If you're going to do these things you need to be a bit more familiar with what you are and are not allowed to do with copyrighted material.
As an SCA teacher teaching an online class, what kind of copyrighted material might you need to be concerned about? Portraits and pictures, primarily. A portrait of Queen Elizabeth; a picture of the Book of Kells; Pictures taken from books showing things your students need to see. These are an essential ingredient to most classes taught in the SCA. You might also be playing recordings of musical performances, showing video of people performing dances; all of these things are copyrighted.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind when teaching an online class that involves a presentation, video, or handout with this sort of material in it.
- When uploading handouts for your students, if they contain copyrighted material, make sure that only your students can get to them. The Atlantia University website gives you a way to do this: you can upload handouts for your classes (Edit Class Link). Only your registered students can see these handouts.
If you prefer to use use Google Docs, DropBox or other popular locations for uploading documents, make sure than not anyone can get to it. You can do this by password-protecting a pdf documents, or set up a dropbox file so that a user needs a password to download it.
- When recording your online class, if you're showing copyrighted material, make sure that only your students can get to the recording. If you are teaching a class on celtic illumination and post a video to youtube that contains a bunch of close-ups of the Lindisfarne gospels, this could lead to some uncomfortable conversations with the British Library. The Atlantia University Website lets you post the url for your recorded session in your class once you've completed it (Edit class link), which your students will then be able to see.
- If you really want to make your handouts or recorded classes publically available--which is awesome!--you can always check with the owners of the material in your handout or video to see whether they're OK with you making it public. This can involve a bit of online legwork, but many organizations are fine with their portraits or pictures being shared in the context of a teaching/learning video. Some organizations are more lenient than others.
If you're not sure whether your class material is safely shareable online with everyone, here is some more information to help you figure out whether it's OK to share it online. There are two parts of copyright law that apply: Fair Use, and the TEACH act.
The TEACH Act
The TEACH Act (Section 110) of the copyright law outlines provisions for online courses. If the copyright issue does not fall under provisions of the TEACH Act it may still be allowable under "Fair Use". In order to claim use under the TEACH Act, a number of obligations must be met. In order to perform or display works in an online class it must be:
- used under your supervision
- part of the class session
- part of instructional activities
- directly related to teaching content
- the online class must be restricted to enrolled students
- there must be reasonable effort to prevent students from being able to save or print the work
- there must be a general copyright warning in the course site
For you to be allowed to include copyrighted material in a handout/video that's freely available online, your use has to pass four tests:
Purpose of the Use
Your picture/video/etc. should be used in class only for the purpose of serving the needs of specified educational programs. Students should not be charged a fee specifically or directly for the materials.
Nature of the Work
Only those details of the book, picture, video, etc. directly relevant to your class should be used. For example, if you're discussing a Norse Saga, only include quotes in a handout as needed for your class.
Amount of the Work
Limit the material to only what's necessary. This applies more to writing than to art. For example: only a couple of pages from a book or journal article rather than the whole thing.
Effect of the Use on the Market for the Original
The instructor should consider whether the copying harms the market or sale of the copyrighted material. This doesn't apply for most of the images or text used in SCA classes; Dante, Petrarch and Holbein are probably not going to take a financial hit because you're sharing their work. On the other hand, if you're sharing information from a colleague about a new find they've been researching, and they plan to publish an article or book about it, you should really think twice about sharing it widely.
It's also important that materials used in the class should include a citation to the original source of publication and a form of a copyright notice.
Copyright law can be confusing, even for people that deal with it every day. As a rule of thumb, as long as you're not posting stuff publically out on the internet--just sharing it with your online students--you'll be OK. If you are going to post it as a public youtube video, etc., make sure you're not going to run afoul of museums, libraries, or people whose work you're discussing.