Magazine article American Nurse Today

Avoiding Copyright Violations in Educational Presentations: What You Don't Know about Copyright Can Get You into Legal Jeopardy

Magazine article American Nurse Today

Avoiding Copyright Violations in Educational Presentations: What You Don't Know about Copyright Can Get You into Legal Jeopardy

Article excerpt

PERHAPS, LIKE MANY HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS, you've given multimedia presentations at national conferences; perhaps you've recorded them, too. Did you know you might have violated federal copyright law by doing these things?

Many presenters are unfamiliar with copyright regulations. They assume presentations given for educational purposes rather than profit can't possibly constitute a violation. But presenters violate copyright law unwittingly every day at conferences (and elsewhere). This article explains copyright law and offers tips on how to avoid violating it in educational settings, including healthcare conferences.

What copyright law protects

Copyright is a legal protection for those who create works of art, literature, and informational resources (including textbooks). Only the person who owns the copyright has the legal power to determine how the work will be used.

To be protected by copyright law, a work must be tangible, creative, and original.

* Tangible: This requirement is satisfied easily if the work is "fixated" on paper, a disk, or a recording. Lectures that aren't recorded can't be copyrighted because they're not tangible and fixated. In today's electronic age, nonfixated lectures are rare.

* Original: Most works are original even if they're built on an earlier work, such as previous editions. Thus, second, third, and later editions are considered original works.

* Creative: The creativity requirement is satisfied as long as the work contains more than simple data or information. Be aware that images created by machines (such as electrocardiograms and X-rays) can't be copyrighted.

Copyright protections are fairly broad. For instance, most graphics, photographs, and diagrams typically used in educational presentations are protected. As a presenter, you're responsible for ensuring that you have permission to use anything you display or that your use of these works falls into one of the legal exceptions to copyright protection. If you own the work, you may use it whenever and however you wish. If, on the other hand, you use images from textbooks, websites, or even your employer, you must get permission to use these; otherwise, you're violating copyright law.

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Understanding the education exception

Exceptions do exist. The education exception allows you to use media in your educational presentation, provided the presentation is given in a classroom setting, isn't recorded for later availability online, and meets the tests for brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect.

* The brevity test means you can use only a limited amount of the copyrighted work, typically interpreted to mean one image from one article or book.

* The spontaneity test means you can use the image just once. If you use it again, you must get permission.

* The cumulative effect test means you can't take one image or section from multiple works by the same author.

If your presentation will be available online, the education exception doesn't apply unless you meet certain additional requirements found in the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002. (See TEACH Act requirements.)

If you're taken to court

Unfortunately, these requirements are subject to interpretation by a federal court. So if you're wondering whether your use is within the exceptions, the answer is a definite "maybe." If a case goes to court, the judge bases his or her decision on personal discretion; it's extremely unlikely the identical situation will have arisen before to set a precedent. Bottom line: It's almost impossible to predict the outcome in court.

As a general rule, if you believe you've met the exceptions, post a copyright statement describing where you obtained the media. This helps prevent the appearance that you're claiming it as your own work. …

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