Open teaching and copyright

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These guidelines provide information about teachers’ copyrights, including related agreements and the openness and use of teaching materials. 

What should I know about copyright?

  • As a rule, teachers own the rights to the learning materials they routinely prepare. You do not need to take any measures to acquire these copyrights or to use the materials in or outside your own work.
  • If you supplement your own learning materials with materials prepared by other people (images, texts, videos, etc.), make sure you do not breach the immaterial rights of the author. If necessary, contact the author to request a written permission to use the materials.
  • In connection with teaching cooperation and preparing digital learning materials, you may need to agree on copyright matters, including copyright distribution, in advance.
  • Copyright-protected materials can be used for educational purposes in accordance with the Copyright Act and an agreement concluded between Kopiosto and Finnish institutions of higher education.
  • In addition to open science, the University of Helsinki aims to promote open teaching; for example, through the open distribution of teaching materials. The most direct way of promoting openness is to release teaching materials under a licence.
  • Students need guidance in copyright matters, too (adherence to good scientific practice).

Teachers’ copyrights and related agreements

As a rule, university teachers retain the copyrights to the learning materials they prepare. Items that fall within the scope of copyright include transparencies, instructional videos and texts prepared for teaching use. Different practice and learning assignments that constitute an original outcome of creative expression may also fall within the scope of copyright. Copyright protects written and visual presentations and results. However, it does not protect ideas regarding course structure or implementation methods, any course descriptions included in a curriculum (course catalogue descriptions), any information included in the course materials or ideas as such. In principle, the examination questions prepared by teachers do not constitute works protected by copyright.

Teaching materials are automatically copyrighted provided that they are an original outcome of the author’s creative expression. Copyrights remain valid for 70 years after the author’s death.

Since copyrights belong to teachers and not the University, teachers should be aware of their copyright-related rights and obligations; the University cannot report a copyright infringement on behalf of a complainant or nullify a contract concluded by a copyright holder, even if the terms and conditions of copyright in that contract are not suited to the copyright holder’s work.

Copyright means that none of the copyrighted materials prepared by a teacher can be copied, distributed, used or attached to other materials without their consent. The author has the exclusive right to:

  • Copy the material or permit it to be copied
  • Publish or publically present the material or permit others to do so
  • Alter the material or permit it to be altered
  • Sell or otherwise transfer full or partial copyrights to the material

The copyright holder is free to relinquish their copyright wholly or in part by agreeing to do so. Copyrights can be relinquished wholly or in part and free of charge or in exchange for compensation. The person receiving the copyrights cannot alter the materials or transfer the copyrights to a third party unless the matter has been separately agreed upon with the author of the learning materials.

There is no need to separately agree on copyright issues in situations where a teacher uses self-authored learning materials in a work context or, for example, in specialist training. It is advisable to consider concluding a copyright agreement when creating learning materials jointly or to be used by others in connection with teaching cooperation or when creating digital learning materials or materials intended for wider use. When a teacher employed for a fixed term prepares course materials for long-term use, it is particularly important to agree on reasonable compensation for the transfer of copyrights or the use of copyrighted materials. Teachers must independently obtain the necessary consent for supplementing their learning materials with materials prepared by others.

Templates are available for agreeing on copyright matters (link to be inserted soon).

The openness of learning materials

The University of Helsinki values the openness of science as well as the openness of learning materials and teaching. In the field of education, operating methods are being developed to promote life-long learning and allow citizens access to university education and learning materials through, for example, MOOC courses and openly accessible video materials. High-quality learning materials can also be used to distribute information about university research to society at large.

Sharing and jointly using learning materials promote interdisciplinary teacher and degree programme collaboration.

Teachers can promote the openness and usability of learning materials through licencing in particular. Basic information about licences, licence symbols and open publication is available in the Open access publication guide of the Helsinki University Library. You can also significantly facilitate the use of the learning materials you have created by clearly explaining how others can agree on using and editing the materials with you. Your faculty or discipline may have other suitable practices to support the sharing of learning materials.

Please note that, as a rule, other teachers should be given access to any learning materials posted on Moodle; however, people who are not in charge of grading the students’ course assignments should not have access to the assignments (see protection of study-related data and the confidentiality of studies).

Other intellectual property rights

Questions regarding other intellectual property rights may arise in connection with teaching work and preparing learning materials. As with the preparation of research publications, teachers preparing learning materials must ensure the following:

  • Correct references to sources and authors
  • Proper grounds for direct quotations (proper grounds for using a direct quote include illustration, clarification and provision of background information).
  • The use of learning or other materials created by somebody else, including images, PowerPoint slides, YouTube videos and publications (or parts thereof) sought for teaching purposes, is based on the consent of or an agreement concluded with the copyright holder OR a user licence OR the agreement concluded with Kopiosto regarding the use of materials for educational purposes.

Consent for the use of copyright-protected materials must be acquired from the author in advance. The consent can be acquired, for example, via email, in which case the emails must be retained. When acquiring the consent, it advisable to agree on how and for how long the materials will be used as well as the number of students using them. The copyright holder is entitled to ask for reasonable compensation for the use of the material. However, no compensation is usually deemed necessary for using materials for educational purposes.

Students own the rights to their own texts and other output, including any materials they create in connection with course assignments. This means using materials created by students as learning materials or for illustrative purposes is subject to the students’ consent.

It is safe to use licenced materials. A good way to select, for example, online materials, is to limit the search function to display open-licence materials only. For useful tips, see here (in Finnish).

Materials may be used for educational purposes more extensively based on legislation and agreement.Kopiosto has facilitated the use of copyright-protected materials for educational purposes by concluding an agreement with the representatives of Finnish institutions of higher education. The agreement allows materials and works to be published and copied more extensively for educational purposes. Even so, the author and source must always be properly cited.

You can check the scope of the agreement here.

To check how many copies you can produce during a course, see here.

Also, be sure to check what you may not copy on the basis of the licence acquired by institutions of higher education.

In accordance with the Copyright Act, in educational activities, a work made public, performed by a teacher or a student, may be reproduced by direct recording of sound or image for temporary use in educational activities. A copy thus made may not be used for other purposes.

Digital learning materials, online environments and copyright

E-learning and video recording of teaching

Within the scope of the licence issued by Kopiosto,teachers may copy and scan Finnish and international scientific articles and extracts from different publications and save them on a closed course platform for use as course material.

The Kopiosto copying licence also enables the limited adjusting and modifying of text, images or photos in order to illustrate a certain topic while teaching. For example, you can practise translating text into another language or modifying an image or add highlights or notes to a text, image or photo to illustrate the subject of the teaching situation. Remember to respect the author’s moral rights when editing material. The right to make adaptations and translations does not apply to musical works or published learning material. Edited materials cannot be distributed online.

You can record lectures and other teaching situations and include the works used in the lesson, such as excerpts from books, in the recording. You may stream the video recording to other premises or make it available to the students participating in the course on a closed course platform.

Use of online materials

Even though material is freely accessible online, you may not be allowed to use it freely. As a rule, online materials are copyright-protected. Restricting access to online materials by the use of a password does not mean you can use copyright-protected material. Publishing materials for a limited group of students on Moodle may constitute a copyright infringement.

Observe the following protocol when using online materials:

  • Read about the licences and choose open-licence materials if possible.
  • Check the website for any terms and conditions of use. If there are no terms and conditions of use, you need to consider what regulations are applicable to the material in question.
  • If the material is subject to the laws of Finland, you can adhere to the rights described in these guidelines and the agreement concluded with Kopiosto regarding the use of materials for educational purposes.
  • If the material is not subject to the Finnish Copyright Act, you need to check the applicable legislation. You also need to check whether you can use the material, how you can use it, and request the author’s permission for using it. You can also contact a representative organisation responsible for granting licences to check if any material produced in another country can be used on the basis of their licence agreements.

Any person sourcing material online is responsible for acquiring consent for the use of that material. However, the author is entitled to submit a copyright infringement claim against anyone who uses the material.

When linking pages, it is best to use a direct link to another site. Other types of links can be problematic. When linking pages, it is always a good idea to request the consent of the site administrator; you should specifically request permission if you are going to use a link that does not guide directly to the target site. It is best not to download pages and materials to Moodle if you can provide students with a direct link to the original online source.

Providing copyright guidance to students

Teaching students how to respect copyright may be necessary in connection with all courses that involve written assignments or presentations complete with images or electronic materials. Usually, it is enough to provide the basic information and instructions about good scientific practice and how to avoid cheating and plagiarism. Students should also be given instructions and encouragement for open publication and licensing. The instructions can easily be included in the general course instructions. You can use the Moodle platform or course pages to remind students about the copyright protection of learning materials and to provide information about the open use of learning materials and other students’ rights to their course assignments. The Copyright Act permits the private use of materials, including students taking copies for private study use independently and on their own initiative.

When students video record teaching situations, it often leads to the unauthorised distribution of copyright-protected learning materials, the illegal distribution of the recording and the violation of the privacy of the people present. Teaching situations should not be video recorded without the consent of everyone present.

You can instruct students to acquire basic information about copyright using, for example, the self-study materials generated by Kopiosto (see the link under Additional information)

Cheating and plagiarism

Unauthorised quotations and other acts of negligence that constitute scientific cheating and plagiarism may also constitute copyright infringements. For instructions on how to avoid cheating and plagiarism, see here, and for instructions on good scientific practice, see here.

Publishing and copyright

The owner of the copyrights to a text or image can freely agree on publishing the material. Publishing agreements usually contain terms and conditions regarding the relinquishing or transfer of copyrights. 

When concluding a copyright or otherwise transferring rights, be sure to retain sufficient user rights to be able to purposefully utilise the material in your own work at the University. If you do not retain sufficient user rights when relinquishing copyrights, you will be unable to utilise your works in your degree programme and research work later. This is why it is a good idea to retain sufficiently extensive user rights that allow the purposeful use of the material at the entire University.

Additional information about copyright in teaching work

The University of Helsinki organises staff training on copyright issues related to teaching work.

See also the Instructions for Students

You will find related content for students on the Instructions for Students Service.