There are three main questions surrounding copyright and intellectual property that need to be resolved up front in the development of any given learning object.

  1. Will the learning object use materials that are under copyright?
  2. Who will hold the copyright for the materials you are developing?
  3. Under what conditions will the holder of the copyright allow others to use the learning object?

Use of copyrighted materials

If you will be using materials that are under copyright, you will need to decide if your use of the materials is covered under Fair Use. If the intention is to re-use the materials you are developing over and over again, then it is quite unlikely that you will be able to claim a Fair Use exemption. In that case, you will need to license materials that you want to use from the holder of the copyright. If you are lucky, the copyright holder will have attached a Creative Commons license to the materials. Otherwise, you will have to negotiate a license directly with the copyright holder.

The NMC has a set of resources on their Guidelines for Authors of Learning Objects website that can help.

Ownership of Materials

It is a very good idea to establish up-front who will hold the copyright to the materials you are developing. This involves potentially awkward and uncomfortable conversations, but it will eliminate potential problems after the project is finished.

Licensing of created materials

If you want to allow others to use your materials without having to ask permission of you directly, consider attaching a Creative Commons license to your materials.

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