Another area of legislation, policies and standards I often engage with in my work is copyright and intellectual property rights (IPR), especially with regard to using and re-using online content and images. While I by no means profess to be an expert, this is an area of considerable interest to me, given that my work involves both creating and re-using digital materials and advising others on their creation and re-use.

To expand my knowledge of this vast and complex field, I have studied the relevant guides and policies, such as the Intellectual Property Office’s Exceptions to copyright: Education and Teaching, Jics guide on copyright law, Jisc’s Copyright Training for University Lecturers, and others.

With regard to the area that is the most pertinent to my work, i.e. re-use of content online, both in the public domain and over secure networks like VLEs, I always make sure to check the licence applicable and I try to be as rigorous as possible in copyright attribution. I have found Antony Coombs’ post on the University of Sussex’s Technology Enhanced Learning blog particularly informative with regard to understanding and applying Creative Commons licences and I recommend it to colleagues when relevant.

I facilitated a practice-sharing session on free-to-use digital teaching materials where we discussed the importance of raising awareness among students and academics of the rules behind re-use of online content. One conclusion we arrived at was that while a lot of people were already aware that it is rarely acceptable just to copy images found in basic Google search into their PPT presentations, better understanding of the existing licensing frameworks and ways of filtering content according to licence was needed.

While using online content for course development, I always make sure to check the relevant licence and follow the related requirements to make sure I am compliant with the applicable regulations.

This is an example of how I used an image under a Creative Commons licence: attribution and licence is specified.

example of copyright compliance: creative commons licence

This is an example of an animation I created to for an online course, with soundtrack which I found online under CC BY ND 3.0 licence (click the image to access the animation).

screenshot of video with CC licence for soundtrack

This is the copyright/attribution note for this portfolio, which can be found at the bottom of the home page. I am only using my own or CC0 images and I have made this portfolio available under CC BY NC ND licence, which means I am happy for it to be shared, provided that appropriate credit is given, it is used for non-commercial purposes only, and there are no modifications to it. 

copyright note for my CMALT portfolio


Having been involved with the academia for many years, I am obviously aware of the academic standards for copyright and intellectual property rights, including the use of ideas and quotations, however, as I started working with online materials, I needed to bring myself up to speed with the relevant regulations and standards for online content. While exploring these topics, I have found that there is still a lot of uncertainty among academics as to how they and their students are allowed to use online content. I believe Learning Technologists/Academic Developers are in a good position to provide authoritative advice on these matters.

I remember how I started paying more attention to copyright and IPR for online content: this was through noticing the Creative Commons icons in other people’s materials: blogs, presentations and so on, and wanting to find out what they stood for. Therefore I believe there is scope for making an impact by being scrupulous in providing the relevant licensing information in own materials and therefore modelling the desired behaviour. 

The practice-sharing session on free educational resources I facilitated was an eye-opener as it highlighted the uncertainties among academics around the issues of copyright, fair use and permitted use. I have been much more careful since then to make sure I use online content in compliance with the relevant regulations, and point out the relevant information in formal and informal training with staff.