Copyright In eLearning: Intellectual Property And License Problems
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What You Need To Know About Copyright In eLearning

While surfing the internet, you may randomly encounter media that would be perfect for your next online course. For example, you can stumble upon an interesting video demonstration, a fascinating image or a cool sound effect that may improve the auditory presentation of your content. Even though you may envision your course being much better if you could use these resources, you need to keep in mind that you may face liability issues if you don’t obtain proper legal permissions to include these media in your eLearning courses.

Despite how tempting it may be to start including cool resources you find online into your course, know that copyright and intellectual property laws are in effect and you can easily get in trouble. After all, you’re making a profit using someone else’s work for which you haven’t obtained the rights to. Not only can this result in high fines, but your reputation as an online tutor may also be at stake.

How Does Copyright 'Work'?

Copyright is essentially a legal right that was developed to protect any piece of original work that has been recorded on film, in an audio recording, on paper, or electronically. This idea was created so that creators of original content can benefit financially from selling the rights to their work. If you’ve previously created online courses or plan to do this in the future, then you have to respect this because you’ll ultimately be making money off original content.

Therefore, it’s imperative that you pay attention to the material that you will include when putting together an online course. Know that even though copyright laws protect original content, it doesn’t mean that it’s completely off limits. You can simply write an email and ask the author if you can have permission to include his or her work in your online course. You’d be surprised to find out how many people would let you share the content just for acknowledging them in your course. On the other hand, some people could ask you for money in exchange for permission to use their work.

Nevertheless, just because you’ve encountered some interesting original content doesn’t mean that’s your only option. Despite the fact that it may be a perfect fit for your course doesn’t mean that you should get attached to it immediately. Do some research online and determine if you could find equally good copyright-free media. This is without a doubt the easiest way to include original work from other people without having to worry about legal problems.

In the event that you find a YouTube video that would be perfect for your online course, you’ll first need to check what kind of copyright it’s under. In most cases, the videos will be under the Standard YouTube License. This means that the creator of the video allows YouTube to broadcast the content, but retains all the copyright. If you’re interested in content under this particular license, you can contact the creator and ask for permission to use it in your online course. On the other hand, if you stumble upon a video under the Creative Commons license, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to use and build on the original content. Nevertheless, keep in mind that there are a few different types of Creative Commons licenses, which is why you should check the type of copyright before using the content.

It goes without saying that as long as your online course features only your work, you won’t have any legal issues. Since you’ll be using information that you find on other websites, you should know how to properly link to sources. Namely, when a student clicks on a link to material on other websites, the page has to open in a new browser window. This way, the person who runs the website will get a unique visitor who’ll be able to further research the page and you won’t be stealing their bandwidth.