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Copyright Issues

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Excerpted from ISED-L 10/19/07, posted by Jason Johnson

1. Have a copyright statement in the faculty/staff handbook. I can't seem to find my reference sample, but it basically says the school respects the rights of copyright holders and tells them who to go to with questions and who to go to if they receive a complaint. The policy should be broad enough to cover any technology (blog, moodle, paper). This protects the school.

2. Have a copyright notice on your web site. This should define the copyright of your materials (who owns what gets posted on moodle, who to contact for permission to publish, etc.) and the designated agent for dealing with copyright complaints. Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org) has a number of pre-made licenses to choose from that cover most situations. Just make sure you specify a license (e.g. non-commercial, share-a-like) and don't just say "Creative Commons". For the agent piece, I would recommend a generic email like DMCA@school.edu. Even schools should be operating an abuse@school.org email to deal with spam complaints and that can be used as well. This protects the school and the authors of content for your site.

3. I liked to provide staff with the following information: http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter6/index.html But you need to have some set of guidelines that flesh out the details of your copyright policy (I made separate ones for blogging, web posting, etc.). Not everyone gets the full range of implications for "respecting copyright" as defined in a policy and these guidelines provide details without causing the policy to grow to unmanageable proportions.

Most of the time, I encouraged staff to link to resources, rather than copying them to the site when ever possible. Fair use provides a lot of flexibility, but it is a gray area that can be avoided in a lot of cases by simply linking. This primarily protects your faculty and staff.

4. Remind faculty and staff that that proper citation is good, but it is not a defense. Citation and a list of works cited is a defense against plagiarism, which is not a crime. You can plagiarize without violating copyright and you can violate copyright without plagiarizing. Plagiarizing may cause you to lose a job, but copyright violations have legal consequences.

5. Requiring authentication to get into portions of your site will limit the ability for you to be caught violating copyright laws by automated tools that comb the web on behalf of rights holders. This does not absolve the school or the person who posted the material, but makes it significantly less likely that you will receive many notices of violations (especially false positives that come from tools that automatically generate DMCA takedown notices).


The Copyright Clearance Center has a publication call Using Course Management Systems. I don't think it answers all of your questions, but it is a pretty good outline of the basics. You can find it at: http://www.copyright.com/media/pdfs/Using-Course-Management-Systems.pdf

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