Six more myths about copyright in education

I’ve written about copyright myths before. Since then, several more have come to my attention. These are six more popular misconceptions about copyright in education.

Copyright applies no less to education than any other sector, but content users are often confused about what conditions of copyright do (or do not) apply to educational use.

1. Creating a derived work from the text of others is okay

This is plagiarism. Whilst not directly in the ‘copyright’ conversation, it is closely created. The resulting derived piece will almost certainly show evidence that the source has in fact originated elsewhere. Instead of reworking, this is best approached by applying your own understanding or interpretation of the original piece (or pieces) with the result being a uniquely individual result – an expression of your own view or interpretation of facts. If you must use original content from another authors’ work, clearly quote and cite the source.

2. Modifying a piece n times will result in it being sufficiently different that copyright no longer applies

Copyright still applies. The number of times you modify a piece does not impact the likelihood of infringement. In the case of artistic works, copyright infringement is likely to be decided based upon the modified element(s) and whether these form a significant component in the finished piece. If the original elements maintain a recognisable original form, and also are significant in establishing the message in the new work, then a copyright infringement is likely. If however the original elements are not significant or even not immediately recognisable, then the likelihood of infringement is reduced. Best advice: obtain permission anyway.

3. Exam papers are circulated so widely among staff that copyright clearly doesn’t apply

Exam boards typically have their own guidelines about reproduction of their past papers. These vary from one board to another. Some will allow for exact reproduction only. Others will ask that reproduction is by specific methods only (for example, printed from an original, but not duplicated with reprographic devices like a photocopier). Constraints regarding the location of use may mean that you cannot upload a copy to your VLE, since access to papers is then possible away from campus. Bottom line: check with the board rather than making an assumption.

4. I get lots of useful resources from an online community and nobody ever mentions copyright

Before sharing any content in an online community, you may wish to check your own copyright entitlement. Are you waiving your entitlement or transferring your rights by uploading? There should be clear terms and conditions to explain this. Before downloading and using content, you should also check whether the owner has specifically indicated that you may use the content without requesting any further permission. The chances are that in a community of individuals with shared interests each of those sharing the content will be pleased for others to use it. However, you may wish to check this first and avoid making assumptions that might be incorrect.

5. Using big brand names in my teaching resources is okay because large companies aren’t interested in small infringements

Big brands are no different from a small business just around the corner – their logo (and any associated trademark) is their intellectual property. You must acquire permission before using it. In many cases, you might find that there are exceptions to using their logo or trademark in an educational context – but you still need to demonstrate that this is the case with a suitable reference to permission. Its unlikely that multinational companies will be concerned about your use of their logo in an educational context, but you must also consider whether the use of that logo might transcend the original context and end up somewhere else resulting in negative brand impact. Consider how the Tango fizzy drink brand was negatively impacted by the playground ‘slapping’ craze. While not a copyright issue, the drinks company subsequently had to reverse the negative impact the craze had on their image.

6. My assumptions about copyright must be correct because they are shared by others

Making assumptions about copyright is inherently risky. Don’t make assumptions, but instead keep these key points in mind:

  • Always be mindful of and identify the copyright owner, whatever media you might be intending to use.
  • Always be aware of the licensing entitlements of your organisation, which might enable you to use certain pieces without needing express permission to do so.
  • Find out who has responsibility for copyright compliance in your organisation and ask them for guidance – they will have lots of good advice for you.
  • Always clearly acknowledge the copyright owner and the permission you have acquired or your licensed entitlement to use their materials.

If you like this post, you might also enjoy reading the it’s predecessor, ‘Six Myths About Copyright In Education‘.

Disclaimer: I’m not a copyright professional, but have gathered the information here form a variety of different sources, each of which offers an independent view of copyright. If you really don’t want to fall foul of copyright law, make full use of professional resources and always, always seek permission for anything you wish to use. Naturally, I will be happy to receive corrections from copyright professionals who may wish to offer corrections to the above.

#ukfechat – regular chat for those interested in Further Education

Recently, I found myself reading a few posts in my Twitter stream at the same time #ukfechat was getting started. The conversation takes place every Thursday from 9PM.

I’ve not really participated in an organised Twitter chat before. Once or twice I’ve posted the odd item with the #edchat or #ukedchat tags if I’ve thought it relevant to those who regularly do participate in these conversational threads. The #ukfechat session is hosted by William Jenkins (@edtech_stories) and friends. Being one of many who contributed to his recent reports I felt a little more inclined to join in.

What was the experience like for me? Mixed is perhaps the best answer.

The start of the session is easy enough – one question to get things started. #ukfechat is fairly new to the Twitter chat arena, so conversation is lighter than others for the moment. Ultimately, the relevance of the subject for any given session determines whether you are going to participate fully. Having a support role (rather than curriculum), participating is highly dependent upon how relevant the subject is to my experience.

As the session continues, the timeline becomes a little more challenging to follow. You see, despite the theme being set out beforehand, conversation flows from the starting point to encompass the points of others. For me, at least, here’s where confusion can creep in. When the conversation includes more than one view expressed in quick succession, too many posts can quickly overwhelm the feed. I’m not yet certain of the best approach in these instances, but perhaps the best idea is simply to slow down and allow the conversation to settle, then offering your reply to specific individuals along with the hashtag – assuming this leaves you enough free characters to actually make a point.

Despite my stumbling, #ukfechat is a great opportunity for anyone working in FE to get involved in a largely positive and constructive conversation directly related to the sector – and I would encourage any reader to at least check out the conversation, even if you don’t want to participate right away.

Want to get involved? You can join the #ukfechat every Thursday from 9PM. Archives of each session are available via the #ukfechat website.

If you haven’t read any of William’s reports, why not start with Twitter in FE which examines the success and failure of Twitter as a tool for educators, or Tech Stories that uses Toy Story as a window to explore the unique characteristics of technology in an educational context.

Three little words: security, stablility, consistency

Security, stability and consistency have for many years been three little words which have been my mantra. Guiding principles upon which much of what I do is based. Every so often, events or circumstance remind me of the importance of these words.

As a technology manager, I am responsible for providing facilities used by hundreds of individuals – both business users, and in our case students also. I want to share with you my three little words, and how they apply to environment in which I work.


Even with the explosion in consumer technology, users generally aren’t technology experts, but they do have higher technology expectations than any previous generation. Expectation doesn’t always match ability or understanding, and therefore Security is (and always has been) the first of my three little words.

Your users – whether they are customers or colleagues – require a secure environment to work in. Their safety when using technology is your responsibility. Nothing should undermine your responsibility as a technology manager to maintain a secure environment. Vulnerabilities must be swiftly addressed. Obsolete or insecure products should be retired. Operations must always include security considerations. Strategy must be guided toward safe, secure and manageable future provision. Your users must be well informed about the importance of security and how most of the facilities you provide depend upon this for effective operation.

Your users may not be aware of the measures security you provide – they don’t always need to be, although it will greatly improve user competence and behaviours if they are. Your network should silently demonstrate its ability to maintain the safety of your users, handling most threats and risk without the user needing to be concerned.


What good are your systems if they don’t work? Your systems should be rock solid. That doesn’t mean they won’t fail – everything will fail once in a while, even with best laid plans to mitigate risk.

Build your infrastructure carefully. Remove risks and weak spots. Consider whether your broad list of assets – physical and logical – provide an adequate foundation to deliver a stable environment for your users.

Should anything fail, your focus must be on recovery. For the user, recovery of the service is usually more important than the recovery of data. In other words (and in very simple terms), users will be most appreciative of having rapid access to the tools they need to do their job, rather than immediate access to the stuff they have already done.


Wherever you work, you know where you are working, right? What I mean is, you turn up at 8AM to start work for ACME Company, and because everything around you is ACME Company, you know you are in the same place.

Your network should evoke the same feeling – wherever I login, whatever device I may be using,  it should be clear that I am working within the same network and my experience is connected by uniform characteristics. Policies should apply broadly and consistently. Systems should behave uniformly and capably. Most importantly, your methods for providing support must leave your users with no doubt about how to find assistance.

I should point out that whilst these words have regularly appeared in my job descriptions over the years, the two aren’t directly connected. If I had no job description, my mantra would be unchanged.

I hope you find my three little words useful, and maybe have taken a moment to think about what your own guiding principles. In their very simplest form, what are the words that best describe your motivation, your mantra?