Initial Publication Date: April 19, 2012

Copyright and Authoring InteGrate Materials

Copyright basics for InTeGrate authors was covered in detail during a February 2014 webinar. You can watch the webinar and check out the slides.

InTeGrate materials will be freely disseminated with the hope that they will be adopted by faculty from a variety of institutions across the country. To help ensure easy adoption, we will make the materials available under a license that unambiguously allows for the sort of reuse we hope to see. To make this a reality we need to ensure that all the materials you as an author contribute can be legally redistributed in this way. Here's what you need to know (and do) to make that happen:

  1. Text that you write in the website (student materials, guides for faculty, etc...) is assumed to be your original creation. As part of your contract you've agreed to give this material to InTeGrate so that it can be redistributed. If you're using text that you didn't personally create, then you need to confer with the people directing your team to make sure the copyright situation with the particular text is acceptable and documented with the CMS in the right way.
  2. When you upload files to the CMS (images, text files, spreadsheets...) the upload dialog will prompt you to indicate where the materials came from and what the licensing situation is. You need to fill this information out accurately. Do it when you first upload the file; don't imagine you'll get around to it later. In general, it's simplest if the materials are something original that you created. In that case, the default: that you are the author and are offering it under the Creative Commons license, is appropriate. If you didn't create the file and don't have some explicit license or permission to redistribute the material under our license then, in general, we cannot use it within InTeGrate. There are a variety of options outlined below for dealing this issue.

What is Copyrightable?

Remember that Copyright Is Not About Ideas

Copyright only covers the particular expression of an idea, not the idea itself. So the materials you create for InTeGrate will undoubtedly build on and draw from ideas from many different sources. This is fine and not a copyright concern. Of course you'll want to give credit to the sources of the ideas (e.g. in the provenance field when uploading a file). Copyright comes into play if you're copying something verbatim or with enough of the original intact that it is recognizable. So copying text, images, and figures are all a problem. Using the idea for an activity you heard from a colleague is not (though it would be good to acknowledge them).

Figures, Diagrams and Images

In general, using figures, diagrams and images that others have created as part of your InTeGrate work raises copyright concerns. Here are some strategies:

  1. Create or recreate the figure/image yourself. If you've created it from scratch (without slavishly copying some existing original) then there's no copyright concern. Remember that data itself can't be copyrighted. So if there's a figure you like in a book, you can get the original data (perhaps even extrapolating from the original figure) and create a new figure yourself. Given that InTeGrate aims to make high-quality material widely available, a little extra effort put into creating original figures is often worthwhile.
  2. Get permission from the copyright holder. This may be simple if they are easily identifiable or very difficult if the original author is not willing to give permission or if the origin of the material isn't clear. You want to make sure you get permission for InTeGrate to distribute the material under our specific creative commons license. See below for an example permission letter.
  3. Find a substitute for the original that isn't encumbered by copyright or has a license that matches ours. A good place to start is the creative commons search page where you can search for existing materials with clear licenses. Other sources for clearly and liberally licensed images can be found on SERC's general copyright page.
  4. Just provide a link to the original. If the original is widely available (e.g freely available on the web) then it may be simpler to just provide a link to the original or a description of how to find it. There are no copyright concerns in linking to materials. Of course, if the material is central to an activity then relying on links to outside websites is likely not a strong strategy. Likewise, while providing a journal citation for an important article may be an easy way around getting permission to post the article, consider whether the full range of InTeGrate users are likely to have easy access to the journal in question.

Fair Use

Fair use is what instructors often lean on when using published materials in the classroom. InTeGrate is most likely not covered by "fair use" laws.

Some Particular Cases

Here are some strategies for dealing with materials from sources that InTeGrate authors have run into:

AGU Journals

Journals published by AGU allow InTeGrate free reposting of figures tables and short quotes as long as you attribute the source.  This is consistent with their standard permissions policy.

New York Times

The New York Times requires payment for the sort of republishing InTeGrate authors might like to engage in. Payments must be made annually and in perpituity at costs that are beyond the project's means to support. So directly reposting articles (or photos/figures/diagrams) from the New York Times is not possible. Consider alternative sources and if need be provide a link to the article. Because of their link policy (people are only allowed to view a limited number of NYT articles each month from a given computer), students may be unable to reach a linked article depending on their browsing habits. So you'll want to provide guidance in your materials about this issue. This could include pointing out how students could work within the constraints (access the readings at the beginning of the month, or from a computer that hasn't used it's quota), several of the inexpensive ($0.99) short-term academic subscription options, and the various local institutional options they may have (their library may subscribe or be able to provide access through local online or paper reserves systems).

U.S. Federal Government

Materials produced by federal government employees in the course of their work is automatically in the public domain (they have no copyright constraints). However, do not assume materials on government websites are unencumbered. Materials on those sites are often produced by contractors (and so not federal employees) so their material is copyrighted. In general you'll need to ask for permission unless you're confident about the identity of the person producing the materials. State and local government work is not special in this way. You must assume it is all copyrighted and proceed accordingly.

When in Doubt Ask

If you're not absolutely sure about the copyright situation around particular material or how to document it please ask your webteam consultant or team leader. We're counting on all the authors within InTeGrate to ensure that we have accurate information about the rights of all the materials in our site.

Getting Permission

If you choose to try to get permission from the copyright holder you'll first want to investigate their website for any information they have related to copyright and reuse. Oftentimes, bigger organizations will have existing mechanisms or contacts for requesting permission for reuse. Many commercial organizations will expect you to pay for reuse which, in most cases, is impractical for InTeGrate. Here's is generic form letter you can start with in requesting permission to reuse material within your module.

If you obtain permission for a resource (e.g. you get an email response from a request) you'll need to record the nature of the permission in the provenance/reuse fields associated with the file. Also, forward a copy of the email to your webteam support person at SERC so that we can keep it on file.

While getting permission in the form of our standard Creative Commons license is ideal (as it makes things consistent for our users) any permission which makes it clear that InTeGrate is allowed to post the materials and that all InTeGrate users can use the materials freely is sufficient. There are, for example, a variety of different Creative Commons licenses all of which are perfectly reasonable for InTeGrate use. If a copyright owner is willing to give permission for use of the their material with different terms and you're not sure if the terms are appropriate please ask your support people.

Documenting Permissions

In addition to obtaining appropriate permissions it's critical that you document this information in the CMS so others can benefit from your work. With each file you upload you'll need to fill out the provenance and reuse information accurately. You can see a summary of this information for all the files available in a given page within the footer. This information will be reviewed for completeness before your module is published. You can revise this information on the file update page which is linked to from the toolbar in the editing interface.

What about files with multiple parts Like PowerPoint presentations?

If you have a file with pieces from multiple sources, such as a PowerPoint with a number of images, you'll want to document the details with the presentation itself, either on each slide or a separate slide at the end of the presentation. For example:

Slide 1: Image of cow from Image in the public domain
Slide 2: Graph of cheese production courtesy of the CIA, Reuse is permitted under a creative commons BY-NC license.

Then in the provenance/reuse fields for the file as a whole you can give credit both to yourself (for the overall compilation) and also point people to the detailed information within the presentation:

Overall presentation developed by Bob Smith and distributed under a creative commons BY-NC-SA 3.0 license. Attribution and reuse information about the individual elements within the file available on the final slide.

Use of InTeGrate Materials

All materials developed through InTeGrate will be made freely available through the InTeGrate website under a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commericial, Share Alike license. Faculty will be able to freely and flexibly adopt or adapt the materials to their classroom. Additionally, the InTeGrate program has a need to find funding sources that will ensure the long-term sustainability of the program so that the materials are kept up to date and grow in response to community needs. Toward that end, the program will explore a number of options including commercial partnerships where InTeGrate materials may be included as part of products for sale (e.g. textbooks, lab manuals). Proceeds from these partnerships would be used to support the continuation of the InTeGrate program and its goal of making the material freely available to a wide audience.

For more details on use and reuse of InTeGrate materials see our terms of use.