Use of Free, Licensed, Images In An On-Line Course

Q.  We would like to use in our web based, online, AP Art History course some artwork for which permission has been granted to copy, distribute and/or modify under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation.  Since the license permits copying and distribution, would this allow for use in an on-line course?

A.  It is important to read the license statement in its entirety. One can only use the material as per the rights granted in the license.  The absence of any statement restricting a particular use, such as on-line, does not automatically grant the user such rights.

In regard to the rights granted to copy and distribute, the question remains does this only mean making physical copies and distributing, or does the license extend to  making a digital copy and making it available on-line. If you download images from a site that clearly grants such user rights, whether in reference to the GNU Free Documentation License, Creative Commons or other such sources, then you could use those images. If  not sure how to interpret the license statement, I would recommend making contact with the licensing source.  Assuming the action desired is permissible,  full credit still needs to be given to your sources.

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Use of Royalty Free Music and Book Covers in Video Production

Q.  Students are making book trailers for our Book Festival. If we purchase royalty free music with the right to use the music in a variety of productions, are we able to use selected music in the video  and not be in violation of copyright ?  Are we able to show the cover of a book in any way as part of our presentation?

A.  My response is based on the assumption that students are producing promotional videos that will be shown either within your school/school district’s closed circuit TV system or on local, community cable and that copies of the promotional videos are not being made for any form of distribution to others, either free or by sale.

With the preceding in mind, royalty free music libraries generally permit the use of the music in almost any form of media production for use within the confines of the institution to which the music is licensed.  This generally would include the school/district, closed circuit system.  However, you are actually governed by the license agreement (contract) for the royalty free music and what it will permit/not permit.  I would definitely recommend reviewing the agreement to see what are the permissions/limitations and if there is a reference to using the music on productions that will be transmitted outside of your institution.  If there is no reference to this in the agreement, I would recommend your contacting the copyright owners and obtain clarification/permission in writing, since the use of the music is governed by contract law, not copyright.

In terms of using the book cover in the production, in general, a Fair Use argument can be made for performing this function.  However, covers are copyright protected and if original artwork, the copyright owner may not wish to see their artwork distributed electronically.  Even though Fair Use may apply, since the transmission of the videos may take place beyond the confines of a school or your district, I would recommend contacting the copyright owners of the images you desire to use for their permission.  In the process, you may find a consistent enough response that may help you in future use of similar materials without having to write for permission again in the future.

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Recording A Story By Reading the Book

Q.  An 11th grade ESE student needs an audio version of a story, and I am unable to locate a DVD, cassette or playaway of the book from any vendors.  Would it be permissible to record myself reading the book for this one student?  The CD would be destroyed and not added to our collection.  We have multiple copies of this book, but an audio format would assist her at home where the primary language is Spanish.  If I could locate an audio format, I would purchase it.  Would you advise writing to the publisher asking for their permission?

A.  I would recommend your contacting your district’s Exceptional Student Education Office and your district Media Center to see if they are able to make contact with the appropriate state support agency and see if they have the item in their collection.  If they don’t, the agency can check to see if they are able to obtain a recording from the Division of the Handicapped and Blind of the Library of Congress, which provides such resources to the states.  If the materials are not available via this approach, I would recommend your contacting the publisher indicating why there is a need to make such a recording and would they be able to grant permission to carry out this activity.

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Loaning EBook Readers/EBooks

Q.  How are Kindles/e-books/etc. dealt with, under copyright law, in relation to use in a lending library of any sort? Would a library be in violation of any laws by loaning out this sort of media, as if it were a book?

A.  Many libraries  have embarked on loaning Kindles with pre-loaded e-books.  As different than buying a published book, however, the use of a Kindle and the downloading of electronic books to the device is governed by a user agreement.  Contract law supersedes copyright.  At this time, Amazon has taken the position that the user agreement doesn’t permit the loaning of the Kindle with the e-books, while libraries have challenged the wording of the Kindle agreement.  The Amazon agreement also states that the wording of the agreement may be changed at any time and once changed, it becomes effective and governs all use.

The libraries that have proceeded with implementation have argued that it is no different than loaning out a copy of the book and that only one copy of a book is loaded on each Kindle.  In addition, libraries, in order to protect themselves from possible user abuse, have contacted Amazon which cooperated with libraries in providing information on how to deactivate the registration on the Kindle on loan so that the user can’t download additional content and when returned, the library can reactivate the Kindle registration.  At this point, Amazon hasn’t taken any direct action in the form of lawsuits.  It may be that Amazon is waiting to see if such use of Kindles diminishes or enhances book ordering and the possible impact on Kindle sales.

One of the problems in being on the bleeding edge of change in technology is that some bleeding sometimes does take place.  So, at this point, I cannot provide you with a definitive yes/no response to your question, other than providing you with the facts as to where the situation stands at this time.

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Converting a VHS Recording No Longer Available

Q.  If you make a DVD copy of a VHS tape that is no longer available for purchase, is that copyright acceptable?

A.  If your school originally purchased the VHS tape with duplication rights, then it would be permissible to convert the video to DVD format.  If not, you would need to obtain permission from the copyright owner. A work, no longer in production, doesn’t end copyright protection. The only rights that are granted to a purchaser of video program is the right to play and view the program.  The purchaser doesn’t own the program, but only the media on which it is recorded.

There is a provision in the Digital Millennium Act, that pertains solely to libraries, that when a medium is no longer in production and the equipment to play it back on is no longer in production, then a library may convert its original holding to another media format.  Currently, the only media meeting this definition is 8 track, audio tapes.

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Copying or Modifying Logos

Q.  Our Technology Education department recently acquired 3D printers.  Students create a design using computer software.  The 3D printer then creates the design and prints out the actual object.  If a student draws, for example, a professional, football team, logo and prints it, is this acceptable?

A.  The official web site of the Copyright Office of the US states, in response to the following question:

“How do I copyright a name, title, slogan or logo?
Copyright does not protect names, titles, slogans, or short phrases. In some cases, these things may be protected as trademarks. Contact the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 800-786-9199, for further information. However, copyright protection may be available for logo artwork that contains sufficient authorship. In some circumstances, an artistic logo may also be protected as a trademark. ”

As per the preceding, in general, logos are not a copyright protected work, unless they contain sufficient, original authorship.  This might be difficult for you to determine. However, assuming that the football team logo is not eligible for copyright protection, it may have been registered as an official trademark of the team.  If it has, unlike Copyright, there are no Fair Use provisions for using trademarked images, which means, with a few exceptions, they could not be used without prior permission.

Overall, my recommendation would be to obtain permission prior to using an organization’s logo, due to variables in regard to the legal status of the logos and a very limited and highly interpretive set of exceptions as to when logos may be used without prior permission.

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Recording Books Onto iPods™ for Student Loan

Q.  Our school purchased iPod shuffles for use with reading groups in first grade. Last year we recorded one book onto each iPod shuffle and checked it out to low readers as a “trial” program. This year, teachers have recorded all kinds of books and reading materials onto the shuffles. As an example, there  is a reading series purchased by the district that is accompanied by tapes and cd’s which a teacher has “loaded” onto an iPod. Other teachers want the iPods so they can “load” whatever books they have in print and cd form. What are the guidelines as far as digitally changing the format of material? If we purchased iPods instead of cd players and there is no “iTunes store” download available for purchase, are we ok?

A. All of the recording activities you have indicated require prior permission.  Unless the school district, when adopting a textbook and ancillary materials, negotiated duplicating rights, the fact that recordings were purchased, doesn’t give the right to make copies.  The purchase of a book doesn’t give one the right to convert that book into another format  and then to make further copies of that format.  The act of making such copies potentially infringes the rights of the author for making copies of their works and being able to create derivative works based on their works.

In reference to iTunes, the use of the site and the downloading of content from that site is governed by the license one agrees to when using iTunes.  License agreements are contracts and contract law supersedes copyright.  iTunes only permits downloads to be used for personal use.  Even though a teacher or a school opens an iTunes account, this doesn’t grant the teacher or school additional privileges.  However, unless there are further restrictions stated on the site, materials purchased may still be eligible for claims of Fair Use and there still would be the opportunity to use portions according to various guidelines that exist, such as the Educational MultiMedia Guidelines or the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education.

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Use of YouTube™ and Google™ Videos for Instruction

Q.  I am a media specialist at a high school where we have several teachers who would like to show YouTube™ and Google™ videos in the classes. We are trying to find out the copyright laws in regards to using these types of resources.

A.  The use of both the “YouTube™” and “Google™” video sites are governed by user license agreements.  Licenses are contracts that supersede copyright laws and privileges.  At the bottom of the home pages for both sites, you will find in small print the words “Terms of Use.”  If you click on on this link, you will be brought to the license/contract language governing what the user is allowed to do and restricted from doing when using videos found on “YouTube™” and “Google™.”

In both cases, they make it known that if the images, logos, videos, artwork, text or other content is the creation and property of “YouTube™ or Google™”, the license requires that you obtain prior permission when using the materials for anything other than personal use.  Content that is contributed by users is protected by Copyright Law and that is stated in both licenses.  Since the licenses basically state that the contributed works are under Copyright protection, then Fair Use, special exemptions under the law and  privileges found in the various Copyright Guidelines and in Distance Learning (The TEACH Act ) would still apply.

In the case of contributed materials to these sites, linking to the specific materials would appear to be permissible, as well as live presentations in class, as per Section 110(1) of the Copyright Law, granting educators the right to display and perform copyrighted materials for the purpose of “Face-to-Face” instruction.  However, when it comes to a use that would require downloading the videos, archiving them for later use, or incorporating them into a distance learning course or other presentation, it appears, from the license statements, that owners of the content need to be contacted, unless the owners of that content have stated in their submission that end users have the right to download or retransmit the materials.  In the case of “YouTube™”, if the individual video doesn’t have a download button on the page that hosts the individual video, then, according to the “YouTube™”, Terms of Use Agreement, it would not be permissible to download or copy that video.

It is important to become familiar with the “Terms of Use” for both sites and to understand the privileges and limitations stated therein.

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Using Music In Student Created PowerPoint™ Presentations

Q.  What are the rules regarding the use of music in student created, PowerPoint ™ presentations?

A.  The Educational MultiMedia Guidelines (see  provide an interpretation of Fair Use as to the limits for using various forms of media in a multimedia presentation, such as Powerpoint™.  However, it should be noted that the guidelines were negotiated between copyright owners and educators and the compromise wording sets a conservative floor for what may be done, but not what may possibly be legally done when applying the four criteria of Fair Use.

In other words, there may be instances when more than what is stated in the Guidelines may be used, especially if the student presentations are being made for a class in media literacy or a teacher is teaching using the techniques of media literacy, rather than the traditional use of media.  Please reference the “Code of Best Practices in Fair Use in Media Literacy Education” which can be found at:

Make sure to read all the introductory material, and not just the five principles, in order to understand the limits and conditions regarding what is being stated.

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Downloading/Linking to YouTube Videos

Q.  Is it permissible to download a YouTubetm video and incorporate it into my on-line course, which is hosted on a restricted access network?

A. In terms of YouTube, their on-site, legal statements indicate that unless there is a download button on the screen for the video desired, it is not permissible to download the video.  Even if it is permissible to download, it is also stated that materials posted on YouTube are for personal use only.  When one agrees/accepts the terms and conditions of using a site, they are now operating under an agreement, which is contractual in nature.  Contract law supersedes copyright. Based on the restrictions stated on the site, I would recommend utilizing links to the video titles you wish to use, rather than downloading and embedding the video segments into your course.

The negative to linking is that you periodically need to check to see if the link is still active or hasn’t been hacked and is pointing to a less desirable location.  However, the positives to linking are not only do you avoid potential copyright issues, but you tie up less space on your institutional server than when storing video segments.

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