Copyrights and Wrongs

Article excerpt

Intellectual-property issues have become one of training's most controversial areas, thanks to the influence of the internet. Whether you're facilitating online learning, researching training stats, or just plain curious, it pays to know what you're getting into when using electronic content--and how to stay out of hot water. Here are some tips for navigating digital copyright issues. For legal advice on this topic, be sure to consult a knowledgeable copyright attorney

Tip 1 Remember, new tools, same rules. Copyrights protect the expression of an idea, a concept, or a thought in tangible form--such as a book or video--not the idea, concept, or thought itself.

According to Canada-based Node Learning Technologies Network, "Without a doubt, the power of technology to make exact duplications, easy manipulations, and rapid transmissions of copyrightable material has brought ownership issues to a crisis." A significant difference between life before and after the Net is that instead of what NLTN calls the "intangible traces" of traditional learning, there ate now electronic "artifacts" that can be owned, reproduced, and marketed. Regardless of the medium, you still need permission to use copyrighted material.

The Rights Stuff; thenode.org

Tip 2: Need permission? Just ask. If you're tempted to borrow online content now and beg forgiveness later, fligged-aboutit. Real people and organizations own copyrights and are fussy about preserving the value of their hard work. The only exception to using materials without permission falls under fair use doctrine, addressed in tip 3.

You should contact copyright owners directly for permission to use their materials and keep detailed communication records. If there's no copyright statement, you can determine ownership by conducting a Web search, emailing the Website contacts, or requesting a records search from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Tip 3: Understand what fair use does and doesn't cover (and it often doesn't). Limited exceptions to the permission rule are possible under the fair use doctrine, which includes reproducing portions of original works for

* criticism and comment

* news reporting

* teaching and scholarship

* research.

Further caveats to using copyrighted materials include whether the use will generate profit or depreciate the value of the copyrighted work. It's a thorny area often reserved for the courts. To help guard your own creations from infringement, see tip 4.

Tip 4: Protect your own. Copyright protection begins when an original work is presented in a fixed, tangible form--that is, on a sheet of music, in a book, on film, or in other media. …