Learn@UW (UW-Madison Only) - Copyright and course materials
Copyright law gives anyone who creates something the exclusive rights to copy, distribute, transmit, or display the work they create for a limited time. Since course management systems technically do all of these things, users rely on exceptions and defenses to these rules to carry out their coursework.
First, if you created the images, sound, and wrote the words spoken – they are yours and you need not read any further.
If you are using materials that are not yours, you can seek permission for the use from the author (or rights-holder). However, a number of laws allow for some use of copyrighted works without the need to seek permission:
The TEACH Act allows copyrighted material to be posted online for university coursework, so long as:
- Access to the copyrighted materials is limited by password to students enrolled in the course, and only for the duration of the course.
- The material is directly related and integral to the course work.
Learn@UW meets the first guidelines, but instructors must contemplate the second guideline to ensure that materials used are relevant to instruction. You may also notify students in your syllabus or in your course that the copyrighted materials may not be further distributed and may not be kept beyond the duration of the course.
Fair use is a defense which allows for breathing room in copyright for unlicensed use of copyrighted material. While there is no right to fair use, courts weigh four factors when determining whether the use of a copyrighted work is "fair."
- Nature of the work - Works that are more factual receive less protection than creative works.
- Purpose - Educational use is weighs more towards fair use; any use which could replace the purchase of an entire work does not.
- Commercial value - A court will ask whether the use of a work might detract from the copyright holder's ability to profit.
- Amount used - Courts expect the least amount possible to be used, and this part must not be the core of the copyrighted work.
While certain types of uses are considered "more fair," such as educational use, there are no guarantees--any copyright holder can file a lawsuit, regardless of how fair you believe your use to be.