Intellectual Property and Copyright

Although the development and delivery of all courses and programs involve copyright issues, these take on additional importance, and involve special consideration, in the online area.

Using externally produced instructional materials

Instructors have a number of options when incorporating materials (text, graphics, audio, video, etc….) into their courses. These include using materials that:

  • Are created by the instructor
  • Are in the public domain
  • Are shared with the public via a Creative Commons license
  • The instructor has secured copyright holder permission to use, for a fee, or at no charge
  • The U of M has paid the copyright holder for use - as with licensed database content accessed through University subscriptions. (Due to varied subscription access, this option may be harder to leverage in cross-campus courses, or those with external students as well as UMN-enrolled students.)
  • Can be included under “fair use”, a part of copyright law that allows for some uses to proceed without permission. Fair use is based on four statutory factors: purpose and character of the use, nature of the original work, amount and substantiality of the portion used, and effect of the use on the potential market for the source work.

For more information on copyright, see the resources that are provided by the University of Minnesota Copyright information services of the University Libraries.

Obtaining copyright/talent releases

If you are including guest lecturers in your online class, you should keep some record of the lecturers consent to appear - but what form that should take may depend on the level of formality of the arrangement, and the plans for long-term reuse of content.
For a casual guest-lecture, collegially provided between scholars, it may be sufficient that everyone involved agrees on expectations around who will have access to a live appearance, whether it is being recorded, and how (if at all) the recording will be reused. Email can be a sufficient record of this.

For more formal situations, especially if there is any intent for a recording to be reused by anyone other than the original instructor, you should obtain permission to record and reuse that content, in the form of a release, from the presenter. The University of Minnesota Office of the General Counsel has developed a standard talent release form that can be downloaded. Many individuals presented with that form may want to negotiate details, so check with the University of Minnesota Office of General Counsel if you want to develop a lower-barrier form for a particular program, or for additional details.

Documenting agreements

When substantial University resources (such as release time, or implementation support beyond what is usually available to instructors in a department) are invested in partnering with faculty on the creation of online and blended courses and programs, or when a program aims to develop courses for reuse within or across academic units, leadership should work closely with the Office of the General Counsel to ensure that intellectual property arrangements are clear to all parties at the beginning of the development project. Both the instructor and the University of Minnesota may share copyright in these situations (refer to the University of Minnesota Copyright Ownership Policy and the Board of Regents Copyright policy). An agreement between the University and the instructor that grants appropriate permissions is critical in preserving the rights of each party to make appropriate use of the online course resources now and in the future.