Being Reasonable about Copyright

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Copyright Image

As we move from Blackboard to Canvas it seems timely to look at copyright and how it relates to learning materials/resources such as images, book chapters, online articles/papers, and videos etc.

Negotiating the plethora of images we encounter on a daily basis can feel overwhelming, especially when concepts of authorship, copyright, and moral rights are thrown in the mix. As a university, we need to lead by example and ensure that how we use and distribute education materials respects the legal and moral rights of owners/creators; in other words: copyright.

Breaches of copyright can occur quite innocently. You find an image on the Internet, you click, copy, paste it into your lecture slides. It’s late on a Sunday night and the class is tomorrow, so you don’t bother to find out who made the image, or if you have permission to copy it. You may even be too tired to bother with captions. Unfortunately, this scenario is very common, and very illegal.

It is important to note that there is no blanket exception for the use of copyright materials within an education context. Legislation clearly states that for the purposes of study, research, and critique that students may make copies of materials without copyright clearance. However, teachers must act within the limitations of the Part VB educational statutory licence: a provision within the Australian Copyright Act that applies to educational institutions and, which limits what and how much of something we can copy and disseminate to students.

Lucky for us we have a very capable team of people in the RMIT Library with a user-friendly system to help us navigate these ambiguities: the Copyright Management Service;ID=rmwgoh4jr6uo

Here, you’ll find links to services, tips on how to manage copyright within your teaching practice, and also links to Library Images Databases that contain a host of copyright-cleared images you can freely use in your lectures and classes. Library staff can also step you through how to get any class reading material onto eReserve and therefore copyright cleared.

There are many reasons to be reasonable about copyright. For starters: it’s the law. Secondly, it’s not all that difficult to find materials that you can use without seeking direct permission. Many galleries/museums and collecting institutions are happy for their materials to be used for education: read the copyright statements on their websites; you might be pleasantly surprised. Thirdly, and I believe most importantly, it’s about respecting and recognizing the work of others. As teachers and practitioners we have a duty to model best practice to our students. Attribution is key: putting a caption on an image that clearly states the title, artist/photographer, and date is the minimum amount of information you should be supplying with any image used in a lecture. And lastly, the sourcing, captioning, and dissemination of teaching materials are all activities that affect your academic integrity. If we want our students to understand academic integrity, then we must demonstrate it.


Feature image by Skley on Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

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