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Educational Design and Engagement

Educational Design and Engagement

Enriching the student learning experience & supporting development of on campus and online courses.

Copyright and eLearning – a seminar

I recently attended a seminar arranged by colleagues in Library services where Professor Charles Oppenheim presented a masterful summary of current law and good practice on Copyright as it pertains to Academic work in Higher Education. He then proceeded to patiently and clearly answer a number of questions from a varied audience of teaching and support staff.

Copyright image created by Libby Levi for opensource.comCreated by Libby Levi for

As a former librarian I’m properly respectful of the law, and actually find it all quite interesting! But I am aware that for many teaching staff the complexities are at best, a nuisance and at worst, an insurmountable barrier to providing students with the best possible content and experience.

While emphasising that he is not a lawyer, Professor Oppenheim provided sound advice for individuals and institutions based on a pragmatic approach to managing relationships between a copyright owner and the individual or institution wishing to use materials. Myth-busting notions of “Fair use” and “ownership”, he also provided a useful caution against assigning unlimited copyright elsewhere, for example to publishers.

My take-away action points:

  • The University spends lots of money on licensing access to copyright material – use it.
  • There is a growing resource of copyright-free or Creative Commons materials available for use in Education – use it.
  • The University has an advisory group who can help with knotty Copyright questions – use them. Contact copyright @

In some ways the digital environment makes it easier to detect infringement of copyright. We are all responsible for trying to ensure our copies are legal. If in doubt, there is advice available. Staff may complain that they can’t do, in the VLE, what they used to in a lecture theatre. In many cases what they used to do in a face-to-face lecture was also illegal, but was less detectable.

Charles Oppenheim’s slides are now avaiolable via the ODL Hub (University of Edinburgh Staff only) at

Some resources for anyone who wants to follow-up on this:

The Copyright Toolkit
Video case studies addressing many common copyright issues arising in the use of media (audio, video, etc.) in teaching contexts

Creative Commons licensing Sample licenses and explanations of what each one means

JISCLegal Copyright Essentials

Open Course on IPR for education

Web2Rights risk management calculator


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