We have now had the chance to meet with most of the C-change partners and look at the proposed materials for release to OER and can see where some of the challenges lie.
There appear to be 3 main types of item that will need clearance:
The biggest challenge is dealing with the liberal use of images in our materials. Some will be easy, as they were made by staff or ex-staff (ex-students work will most probably also be considered low-risk). For other images we won’t be able to easily provide an author or established copyright licence. Indeed, we know that some may well of been lifted without permission or acknowledgement from the web. With all these images, it will be necessary to either find their author and ask for permission or endeavour to find replacement images from known copyright cleared sources such as Flickr – Creative Commons or indeed the authors own images. In some cases, if it is impossible to find the author and the image is considered ‘low-risk’ it may be considered a ‘reasonable risk’ to go ahead and use some of these images anyway, but full efforts must be taken to show due-diligence before this decision can be taken.
Diagrams, Graphs and Figures
The most common challenge we face in the clearance of our OER materials is the use of diagrams, graphs and figures that have been taken from published research papers and are often the central item around which the teaching resource revolves. It is normal practice in this case for the copyright to be fully signed over by the author to the publishers with the author only retaining a few rights to use or publish this material. But in terms of our project – the copyright situation is quite clear – it belongs to the publisher and we must approach them to ask for permission before releasing them under an open CC license. However, we should remember that it is not the facts, data or research that is ‘copyrighted’ but only the representation of those facts in the form of the diagram, graph or figure. So, if possible, it is quite legal to re-represent the data held within a diagram or graph as long as you go right back to the original data and do not attempt to simply re-draw the diagram, which is certainly not allowed. Of course what is re-representing the data and what is re-drawing the diagram or graph could be a very hazy difference and on the whole where possible, it would be better to contact the publisher. In many cases the diagram or graph is simply too complicated for easy re-representation anyway. At least with these items, we normally have the advantage of knowing the source and the copyright owner.
There may in some cases be the possibility of using the known ‘Copyright Fair Dealing Exception’ of ‘Review and Criticism’ as a defence for using a known copyrighted diagram (an approach taken by some other OER projects). On the whole this may be more appropriate in the arts subjects where criticism and review are more integral parts of the teaching process than in these materials where the diagrams are used simply to disseminate the content of the data. So it may in some cases provide us with a way of getting around the rules, but is unlikely to replace simply asking for permission from the Publishers.
On the whole, the first course of action is going to be simply to ask the publisher who owns the copyright. We don’t know yet what there approach to the idea of their material being released on open licenses, but it is worth remembering that their ownership of this copyright may be open to challenge anyway, due to the fact that their agreement was with the authors and not their employers who would normally legally be the original copyright owners.
Whatever method of clearance is used, it is important to remember that we must always fully acknowledge and reference each use of a diagram anyway to prevent claims of plagiarism.
One further challenge that is coming up within our materials is the use and modification of maps. Maps are a central and integral part of the GEES teaching resources and their use is well supported in education, but they are still copyrighted material and in many cases the copyright and commercial value of their intellectual content is well guarded by the owners. They may therefore be considered ‘High Risk’ in copyright terms and special care should be taken. We (GEES Subject Centre) are currently trying to contact the OS to find out what their position is as far as the limited release of some of their maps in our OER and we will get back to you with any news.
However, it is not just British maps that we wish to clear. Dr Richard Jones in Exeter has a few Norwegian maps that he wishes to use – so we need to find out the best way forwards for these. We also need to consider what we can do in terms of re-drawing as some of these resources document the research which provides corrections to the original maps.
If you have any thoughts on the clearance of any of these, or other challenges, please do get back to me