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Issues around Copyright

For this week's assignment in AL 883, we were asked to analyze each of these case studies with an eye toward copyright. Below, I've copied and pasted the cases and responded to the questions.



Copyright Case #1

Professor A. teaches a course about American cities, specifically focusing on Chicago and New York City. As a part of the course in his face-to-face version he uses two video sets, Chicago – City of the Century (http://amzn.to/nEJmh8) and Ric Burns’ New York (http://amzn.to/qSYens). Typically he uses portions of 2 of the 3 discs in the Chicago set, and shows all 5 of the New York videos.


As Professor A begins to move his course to an online format he is faced with the problem of how to show the videos to his online students. Please consider the following questions:

  1. Can Professor A. digitize and stream the videos to his students? According to copyright laws, Professor A cannot digitize and stream the video to his students because this is a violation of the fair use act for educators. PBS specifically also states that their materials cannot be digitized and shared, and especially not on a digital server.

  2. What could he do to minimize the risk of copyright violations and follow fair use? If Professor A wanted to minimize the risk, he would have to offer to host a showing of the film for students who would be able to attend; require students to purchase the films; and/or ask permission from PBS to digitize the documentaries and share them with students.

  3. What are other options Professor A. might consider? Finding documentaries where the distributor/director gives permission for their distribution online; hosting a face to face showing; or finding web documentaries that are open and accesible. He could make the argument that since it's for educational purposes, that it would be fair use as long as it's a controlled distribution (like the students can't make copies and distribute the films themselves).

I feel like in this case, it's complicated. Professor A chose these documentaries for a reason, and being hindered by copyright laws makes it difficult for him to adapt the F2F class materials to the online setting. There are alternatives, however, and those might be worth seeking out.


Copyright Case #2

Professor G. teaches a course in arts education. He has written many papers on the subject and as he moves his course online he would like to use some of them as readings for his course. He puts several of the articles up in his ANGEL course, but is then told by a colleague that he may be violating copyright law. Upon further inquiry, Professor G. is told that he must pay the publisher a certain amount of money per article, per semester in order to use them in his course.

  1. How do you interpret this case? Is the publisher in the right to request payment? I don't believe the publisher is in the right to request payment - although legally they may be, the academic journal publishing industry is notorious for its exploitation of scholars for both content and reviewing. Further, if it is the author's work and they are using it for educational purposes, they should be allowed to post the readings. If all else fails, he could put a copy of the articles on hold at the library and students could physically go and request physical copies.

  2. Could Professor G. make a case for fair use? How? Yes, because it's for educational purposes and not for his personal gain in terms of profit.

  3. What are some options Professor G. has for disseminating his work to students? Assuming that the articles are available through university databases, he could provide links and have students go and download the articles themselves. Students could also request copies of the articles through iLiad services provided by libraries if the university does not have holdings for the journal.


Copyright Case #3

Professor M. is an avid “screencaster,” often creating several short narrated slideshows each week that she puts online for her students. Because Professor M. knows the power of imagery, she often uses visuals to help illustrate her points. Her students often give her positive feedback about these materials. Professor M. uses Google’s image search to find relevant images for her presentations, then puts them into her slideshows. One day, a publishing company approaches Professor M. about using her slideshows in an upcoming textbook. Please consider the following about Professor M’s case.

  1. Is Professor M. violating copyright/fair use by using images from Google’s image search? If she did not ask permission from the holders to use their images, then she would be in violation of copyright law. Google Images aren't all fair use, and although she would be able to use them for presentations in educational settings, using them in a textbook would be a violation of copyright.

  2. If you determine she is in violation, what might she do to come into compliance? She would have to remove the images or request permission from the copyright holders to use them; this could come at a financial cost to Professor M because she would probably have to pay to use the images.

  3. What about the offer from the publishing company? Can Professor M. sell them her slideshows? I don't think Professor M would be able to sell her slideshows because she may not be owner of them - the educational institution she works at may have a claim to them. This article explores the issue in depth in regard to lectures, and it arrives to the conclusion that all the legal precedents demonstrate that the professor is the owner of the copyright for teaching materials. However, I do know that the university makes graduate students sign a contract saying that we don't "own" any of our research materials, so I feel like this is a complicated gray area.

Copyright Case #4

Professor D. is a tech savvy instructor who teaches film studies and multimedia creation in an online format. As a part of her course, she has an assignment where she models several video “remixes” – videos created from one or a variety of sources that often take inspiration from or follow known storylines (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2T5_0AGdFic) – that she has created and then asks her students to create their own remixes and share them with others via YouTube.


Professor D. also takes short clips from Hollywood movies and presents them to the class as a part of her lectures to illustrate various topics associated with film creation and criticism. She owns the DVD’s of each movie and uses a “ripper” to pull portions of the clips, then places them into her University’s learning management system so only her students have access.

  1. Is Professor D violating copyright/fair use in her remixing activity? Why or why not? If it is transformative, it is not in violation of copyright and falls under fair use. According to the link, it is transformative if it results in the creation of a new work or uses the original work for a new/different purpose. The same fair use laws apply to satire and comedy.

  2. Are her students violating copyright/fair use in their remixing assignment? As long as they're truly transformative and not being used to create profit and are for education purposes, then I don't think they're violating copyright/fair use laws.

  3. Is Professor D violating copyright/fair use in her use of the short Hollywood clips? Why or why not? For the same reason listed above - if they're for educational purposes and are in a controlled setting, then I don't think so. Especially if they're clips and not the entire films. If she was using entire films this would be a different scenario, but short clips tend to fall under fair use laws.

© 2018 by Julia DeCook.