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Copyright and the web


Finding material on the web

The web has changed the way we share things and copying is as easy as right-click/save as, but copyright -- which was designed for the print age -- means you can't simply use everything you find on the web simply because someone made it publicly available. However, there is a growing amount of material that is more open and able to be reused in various ways. Read the information below or check out some slides on this topic (with notes).

What can I use from the web?

This is actually a complicated question. If you find something on the web you would like to use, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is the source of the material?
    If it is labelled as coming from somewhere else, is embedded in a site, or just looks like it came from somewhere else and is unattributed, then most likely the copyright is held by someone else. Check the source for usage rights. For example: if a website has an image on it labelled as 'Getty images' or 'Photostock' or a photographer's name then the website doesn't own the rights, the named party does and this is where you would have to go to find out if you can use the image.
  2. Is there a a 'terms of use,' 'copyright' or other licensing statement, such as a Creative Commons licence icon?
    This outlines what you can do with the material. If there is simply a statement along the lines of 'Copyright [Name] 2011' then the creator of the site is claiming 'all rights reserved,' the default copyright position, on the material. Note that there is a lot of poor practice in this regard. There are many sites with this type of generic copyright statement that in fact contain a lot of unattributed material created by others that the web site author cannot make such a claim about. So, such a statement will only apply to anything that is original to that site.

    If there is a Creative Commons licence applied to the material then the licence explains how you can use the material (see the video presentations elsewhere on this site for an example of CC-licensed work).

    Other material may be open access. This means you are free to use it under the terms outlined.

If the material is 'all rights reserved' these are your options:

  1. Use an amount of the material that would be considered fair dealing.
  2. Use the material in accordance with the provision of the New Zealand Copyright Act that allows educational institutions to store web pages for educational purposes, provided the provisos are met (see coursepacks in hard copy/Blackboard).
  3. Seek permission from the copyright holder.