University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Key Issues: Copyright

Dealing with copyright issues is a pain, but ignoring them can lead to a worse headache. However, a little understanding of the issues now will prevent most problems later.

After all, you don't want your students to go to all of the trouble of making videos only to discover that they can't be shown to anyone because they're breaking the law.

Find out who retains the copyright of your students' work

When your students make videos, somebody will own the copyright. Depending upon your school’s policies, that may be the student, or it may be the school. Only the copyright owner can grant permission for the video to be broadcast in public (i.e. on the web through BEEP or YouTube).
So you will need to find out what applies in your school.

Copyright permission: get it in writing

If there’s going to be a problem with copyright issues, you probably won’t know about it until a lot later, when it’s difficult to remember if you asked permission or not. So the easiest way to keep the right side of the law is to always ask for copyright permission in writing. An email will do it. That way you can keep a log of all permissions for future reference if there ever is a problem.

Types of copyright

For a good understandable overview, see here

Creators copyright

Creators copyright

Whenever you make any kind of artistic or literary product (photos, videos, music, writing etc), usually the person who made it is the copyright owner. This may not apply however if you are an employee or a student – see below.

Derivative copyright

Derivative copyright

If you use something in a video that you have not made yourself, i.e. a photo or clip of music, then you will need the permission of the copyright owner to do so. Even if you change or alter the thing used (say chopping up bits of a photo), you will still have used somebody else’s copyrighted item and will need permission. Getting permission to adapt someone else’s work is called Derivative Copyright.

Licenses to use copyrighted material

Sometimes copyright owners will formally state the terms under which you may or may not use their materials. These are called copyright licenses and there are many types. But for school projects, the simplest way to think of it is:  if I can’t see anywhere that is says ‘you can’, then assume ‘you can’t’. Look for ‘You Can’ type license arrangements.

Types of ‘You Can’ licences:

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

This means that the copyright owner wants to keep some rights, but also wants to share their creations for you to use. Usually that means you just need to credit the author, but it can mean more. Find out more here:
Creative Commons licenses are a great way to stop anyone from stealing and taking credit for your work, while at the same time allowing you to share what you’ve made with others.

Public Domain

Public Domain

This is the most open form of license saying that the creator allows you to do anything you like with the thing they created.

Royalty Free

Royalty Free

This means that, for a fixed fee, you can make something from the copyrighted material, but there will be restrictions mentioned on the website you get them from. Most commercial libraries of music and photography operate on this principle, where you buy the right to use their product in limited ways. N.B. Remember you are buying a license to use something, not the thing itself. And make sure the license allows you to do what you are planning. So if you want to make a video using photos from a royalty free library and to upload the video to YouTube, make sure the license for the photos specifically states that you can publish them to a website. If not, you will be breaking the law.

Permission to use does not equal permission to broadcast

Whenever you ask someone for permission to use their work in your video, it’s really important to say where and how the video will be shown, especially if you’re going to put it up on the web. Getting permission to use a piece of music in a school project is one thing, but putting the result up on YouTube counts as public broadcast of the copyrighted material. Do this with a well known song and you could find yourself in trouble.

Next: About the BioEthics Live! project

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