Can I Use Copyrighted Materials?

Using copyrighted materials is turning into some of a grey area these days. Most L&D teams can’t afford to hire someone to produce bespoke videos or produce a gallery of photographs. Especially if you’re working as an eLearning specialist in a small business or organisation.

The temptation is just cut and paste an image or a video from the web. But beware. There are laws protecting materials from third party sources. Here’s a good link to explain the ins and outs of copyright laws.

There is such a thing as “fair use” laws which allow the use of small parts of copyrighted materials. If the materials are used for teaching and learning, the law is more forgiving than if those same materials are going to be used for commercial purposes. However, if you are operating in the EU,  you have to exercise caution.  There has been a lot of ongoing debate about new copyright laws that have been passed by the EU Parliament.

These laws largely govern the re-use of news items by giant search engines which display the content without paying for the privilege. How these new laws will be enforced is another matter entirely. Policing the internet, as everyone knows, sounds good but is almost impossible to achieve. Just look at what’s happening with Facebook trying to stop some bad agents.

There are ways around this problem that can involve a little bit of money that give you free reign to use content. My Learning Space partner Totara has off-the-shelf content that can be bundled with your LMS that may cover a subject you were thinking of ….”borrowing” from another source.

Re-using material for Massive Open Online Courses can sometimes be re-purposed for student learning. You have to check with the re-use regs stated in the End User License Agreement of that particular class. LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) is also a source of online tutorials for software and business expertise. The courses cost about $30 a month.

No matter what your questions about copyright, it pays to ask the pros. So find yourself a good intellectural property lawyer to help answer those questions. Or just subscribed to the materials you need. It’s a safe bet to cover any potential legal issues.




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