Zettelkasten Forum

Copyright and teaching material

I am stuck with a annoying issue: I want to select texts as teaching material and share them with a limited number of people. The context is the seminar but also material for the 1on1 coaching and the course. I choose them by quality and not public availabilty.

But I suspect that I can run into some copyright issues?

Do you know what the dos and donts are, so I won't be sued and become homeless?

I am a Zettler


  • I think the best answer you can get is to find a lawyer who can give specific guidance in your country. It costs some money, but you'll get the best answer and advice.

  • This.

    I found that as my career scaled up, hiring a good lawyer - both ad hoc and on retainer at times - was not only inevitable but desirable.

    Or you could roll like Mr Soderbergh and make mind-blowing remixes like this Heaven's Gate - The Butcher's Cut and just hope your reputation is enough to keep someone from suing you.

    I am not so fortunate.

  • @Sascha, I'm speaking here as a former secondary school teacher and professor at a junior college. I am based in America. In US copyright law, there is a clause on "educational fair use," meaning that if I am (1) using the materials for teaching, and (2) I am not selling the materials1 or profiting directly from them, then I can use something in my classes. In all cases, proper attribution must be given.

    Now, I don't know to what extent this applies in other countries, though I know copyright laws are similar in many other places, especially on fair use. I also don't know to what extent educational uses apply outside of institutions.2 So I second what others say on consulting a lawyer -- adding that there is some precedent in the US for what you are proposing.

    1. That is, not selling them as a separate item. Under US law, including materials in a course fee avoids this. ↩︎

    2. "Institution" here is a loose term; I once taught an after school workshop series on poetry at a community center (i.e., not a school or university) and was told by a copyright lawyer that I was well within the bounds of "educational fair use" when I prepared a workbook for the program using other texts. ↩︎

  • Hey, i am not a professional expert in this field, but it was part of my education in university. I recommend to find and use published material (high quality is available i hope :smile: ). Of course, properly quotation is still required. To be really safe, use snippets and build them into an own body of work (e.g.: you explain an abstract rule of proper note taking etc., then build in a passage like "in the following example, the notes lack element xy; the author forgot step 2 of the thinking process......") -> snippet. Look up § 51 UrhG for this (i guess it is a private matter, on institutional level like university § 60a UrhG is helpful).

    You should not use material for "homework" in your courses, e.g. a new magazine or short book etc., without professional advice. But maybe there are books about this, too (for journalists etc.) and you do not need to pay for consulting.

  • It al> @Sascha said:

    The context is the seminar but also material for the 1on1 coaching and the course. I choose them by quality and not public availabilty.

    It also depends on how this material is licensed and where. Without knowing the specific material and where you got it from, it would be difficult even for a lawyer to make good advice.

    In Germany you can roughly say: If there is no money involved and you share this stuff in a private context, it is mostly fine (not in the sense that it is legal, but you rarely get in trouble). But in the exact moment, when money/a business is involved, things can be very hairy and difficult. Like others already pointed out: Getting professional advice from a lawyer is usually a good investment.

  • Open source does not mean free of charge, so whether the material is published or not is completely irrelevant.

    One option that hasn't been mentioned yet is to simply ask the copyright holder for permission. Even when no license is available or when all rights are reserved, you'd be surprised of their cooperation. Apart from being the nice thing to do it is in all likelihood also something a lawyer would suggest, to be "extra sure".

    my first Zettel uid: 202008120915

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