Copyright can be a dry subject, but author Thomas Tobin and a team of artists have created a comic book that explains – with clear language, striking visuals, and fun – some do’s and don’ts of copyright law within academia. At 14 pages, it’s a quick read, and there’s a handy one-page summary for someone wondering whether or not they can use copyrighted material in their class. A few takeaways:
Copyright law doesn’t prohibit linking to copyrighted material (for example, something posted to YouTube). However, for ethical reasons, we should avoid linking to online material that we think might have broken copyright law.
Many owners of content give permission for others to copy, share, or recreate their content. See if there’s a Creative Commons license agreement, or something similar, to check if you can copy it.
Fair Use is a legal defense that, while not concrete, offers some guidelines:
Purpose: Are you copying something for teaching or research, or for monetary gain?
Amount: Are you including a sample or the entirety of a work?
Nature of the work: Factual information is generally more shareable than creative works.
Economic impact: If you include this content in your course, will the copyright owner potentially lose income?
If you still aren’t sure, you might even be able to contact the copyright owner and ask him or her for permission to copy their work for your course.