SERC > SERC Authoring > Copyright Pointers

Copyright Pointers for Contributors

A key element of this project is to promote sharing and reuse of teaching material among educators. In order to lower the barriers raised by copyright and the associated confusion over whether "fair use" applies. We strive to offer all the materials in our shared collection under a license that explicitly allows for this sort of reuse. This Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license allows for reuse of materials on the site as long as attribution is given to the original author, derivative works are offered up in a similarly free manner, and the material isn't used for a commercial purpose (e.g. included within a textbook that is offered for sale).

To make this happen each contributor must grant us permission to offer their contribution up under this sort of the license. In submitting your materials you are agreeing to this arrangement. It's important to note that we assume all materials you provide (either text or uploaded files and images) are either created by you or are offered up by their original creator in a fashion that is commensurate with this redistribution. If your contribution contains materials created by others (images, documents) you must have the permission of the original author (either explicitly given to you, or given implicitly by virtue of the material being in the public domain, or offered up under some similar license) in order to contribute them to this collection.

What to do about copyright and attribution for materials that will be shared through SERC Sites

Distributing information on the web generally requires the permission of the copyright holder -- usually the original creator. The file upload form will ask for information about the reuse and provenance of materials uploaded to the site. This helps you follow the rules and also helps visitors to this site understand the ways in which they may (legally) use what they find.

If you created the file (and haven't signed away your copyright) then we'd encourage you to select the CC non-commercial attribution share-alike option. You'll retain the copyright to your file and can do as you please with it in the future. Through this choice you are also explicitly allowing others to reuse that file as long as they give you attribution, and don't use it for commercial purposes.

If the file (or content within it) was created by others you'll need their permission. If it predates 1923 or was created by a U.S federal employee (as part of their job) it is likely in the public domain (and we can all do as we choose with it). The original author may also have explicitly stated how it may be reused (e.g. through a creative commons license). You can describe the licensing/reuse situation in the box on the upload form.

Without permission you should not upload the file. There are several options in this case:

The http://fairuse.stanford.edu/index.html has more good information about copyright as it applies to academic settings.

What if I'm providing a single file (like a presentation) that has lots of different images/graphs/etc?

In these cases you'll need to make sure that each of the individual elements is something you are allowed to share (e.g. by using images that you've found via the guidelines below). In some cases it may be necessary to find substitutes or remove specific images (e.g. things you've copied out of textbooks) before it's appropriate to share them on the web. Many things that are fair use to include in a presentation you're giving to a room full of workshop participants aren't fair use to share with the world via the web.

You'll want to provide attribution for each element within the file (e.g. with a note at the bottom of each powerpoint slide that has an image, or in a single attribution slide at the end) for all those elements you didn't create yourself. When the file is uploaded you'll need to be sure the provenance/acknowledgment information for the file as a whole points people to look inside the file for these details: "This powerpoint developed by Cris Smith except where otherwise noted within the presentation".

Finding images that you can legally use

There a number of strategies for finding images you can use in your web pages without violating copyright law. Keep in mind that by default you have to assume that any image you find on the web is copyrighted and can not be used unless there is an explicit indication that it can be. So the trick is to find images where someone has gone to the trouble to be explicit about how you may reuse their image.
Of course just because you've found an image on one of these pages doesn't mean you're free to use it as you like. You'll have to abide by whatever restrictions they've indicated. In most cases you'll need to provide attribution (putting that in an image caption is usually a good solution). For images that allow reuse with attribution but aren't clear who you should give credit to it's normally sufficient to provide a link to the site where you found the image. In all cases you should be careful when uploading the file to provide accurate information in the provenance and reuse fields of the upload dialog about where the image came from and how others may reuse the image.

Guidelines for posting photos of other people

1. Copyright - You need to have to have permission of the photographer (the copyright holder by default) or other copyright holder if there is one.

2. Privacy - Some folks don't like to have their picture taken/published. If the photo was taken some place where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy they can sue (and win) if you post their photo without permission. So if there is an identifiable person in the photo, you need to have their permission to post the photo on the website. If they aren't identifiable in the picture (too far away, just their back, etc.) then the photo can be posted without specific permission (since you aren't violating their privacy).

If the photo is taken in a public place, then there is generally not an expectation of privacy and thus photos of people in public places can be posted without permission. Note that classrooms generally aren't public places, especially considering FERPA.

Participants in SERC workshops are asked to approve a photo release as a part of their workshop registration. The majority of participants agree to have their photos used, but not everyone does. We don't post photos containing folks who haven't given permission.

Examples:

We got permission from the professor at the front of the room but not from anyone else because they are not identifiable.


photo of students in a jigsaw
We clearly would need a photo release form from the two women in the picture.





Google Earth - every image must have the Google Earth logo plus the contributing partners (e.g., DigitalGlobe, TerraMetrics, SPOT image) for the particular image (and this changes with both location and image extent). This all has to be readable on the image itself, it can't be just in a caption. Google Earth does not fall under the creative commons license.

NASA images can be used for free but you do have to provide credit. Every mission has its own required credits, most of which go beyond just crediting NASA. The image itself does not have to have the credits on it the way Google Earth images do - a credit in the caption is fine.

What did all that mean? Questions and Answers

Does this mean I'm giving up my copyright/ownership of what I contribute?
No. Contributors to these collections retain their copyright of the things they contributed. They are free to do whatever they like with their materials (e.g. including it in a textbook for sale). The license contributors are agreeing to simply outlines the limits of what we can do with the materials (and by extension what people who find the materials through the collection can do,without have to go back to the author and ask for broader permissions).
Can I include the funny cartoon/useful figure I always use with my students? I copied it out of a book, but I'm an educator and that's fair use isn't it?
Probably not (unless you drew the cartoon/useful figure yourself). While it may be fair use to use some copyrighted materials in the context of your own classroom, it's much less clear once you start distributing the material beyond your own students. Please don't upload those sorts of materials to this site. Often you can find substitutes unencumbered by copyright or simply provide a link to the original material (or a description of how to get a hold of it) rather than including the material itself.
But I gave attribution to the original source. Doesn't that mean I can include it?
Unfortunately not. While notions of academic honesty and the importance of attribution for establishing the intellectual provenance of work are central to academic work they have no bearing when it comes to copyright (at least in the U.S.). If you don't have permission from the copyright holder citing them (regardless of how accurately and prominently you do it) won't magically give you permission.


« Previous Page