Legal information on embedding foreign copyrighted material.

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What situation are we talking about?

Texts / videos / photos / drawings / diagrams / music, which were created by another person or depict other people, are to be used as teaching materials.

What is the problem?

Other parties may have rights to this material. This applies to copyrights, provided that the material is protected as a copyrighted work, as well as personal rights of people recorded on videos or photos.

What material can be copyrighted by others?

In principle any teaching material, regardless of the medium. Drawings, pictures, photos, music, texts etc. are also protected. The decisive factor is whether the material has its origin in a creative process (even if the level of creativity is very low).

What can I use safely?

  • Ideas or concepts.
  • Self-produced pictures (for photos of people please note their rights, see below) or texts etc.
  • General knowledge or scientific knowledge, e.g. formulas, periodic table or similar may be used. But you should be careful with special variations of presentation, e.g. diagrams, which convey knowledge in a different, new, creative way. Copyrights exist for the pictorial representation.

What material should I be careful with?

Everyday works such as posters or flyers can also be protected by copyright. Also protected are plans, maps, sketches, and tables. There is also no rule that material can be used freely just because it is on the internet. Furthermore, the author does not have to specify under which conditions it may be used under his/her work. If he/she does, the instructions will tell you what is permitted. If he/she does not, the rule applies that this piece of work may not be used! Therefore, one should be careful with material that does not contain any instructions.

What is the basic principle when I use foreign copyrighted material in my course?

Any use of copyrighted material is only allowed with the permission of the author.

Could I, for example, draw/trace a diagram instead of copying it?

This would also constitute a violation of copyright law. The form of presentation is protected.

Are there no exceptions?

Yes, there are. However, the specific conditions of the exceptions must be met. The exceptions in regards to copyrighted material are:

  • Pieces of work whose creator has been dead for more than 70 years.
  • State laws / regulations / directives / verdicts may be used freely.
  • The material has been made freely available to the public by the author (often recognisable by a CC licence).
  • Buildings / monuments / statues etc. may be photographed from the outside (panoramic freedom).
  • Works may be incorporated as quotations.
  • 15% of a work can be used for teaching purposes.

When has the author been dead for more than 70 years?

The author is the person who created the material. This applies to all types of material (including texts / videos etc.). For example, in the case of a photograph, the photographer is the author (not the person depicted). If there are several authors, the 70 years from the death of the last deceased are counted. In the case of photos without any particular creative achievement (snapshots), a period of 50 years applies.

What is a quotation?

Pictures / videos / music can also be used as quotations. But only if the statements connected to the piece of work cannot be understood without showing or playing them directly (mere illustration, variety or colouring are not sufficient for this purpose). Examples are statements which refer directly to a cited text and would not be understandable without it, or an explanation which makes no sense without the accompanying picture. In principle, quotations should be kept as short as possible and the source should always be cited.

What is to be taken note of concerning the 15% rule?

Up to 15% of a piece of work may be used for teaching purposes at the university (copying, sharing, etc.) provided that the material is shared in a course on an internal platform (Stud.IP; Ilias). Publication on the web or youtube is not permitted. When calculating the 15%, in the case of books the table of contents etc. is also included, in the case of films the credits. An unauthorised bypassing would be to divide the work into segments of less than 15%. Shorter essays and small pieces of work may be used (small: texts 25 pages; video 5min).

What about video recordings or photo of people I took myself?

In principle, each person can decide for themselves whether they want to be depicted in videos or photos. Therefore, for recordings of conferences, meetings, lectures or street photos, for example, you need the permission of the person depicted in order to show them in the lecture.

Are there any exceptions to this rule?

Yes, there are exceptions to this rule too. These are:

  • Depictions of famous people,
  • Recordings of large crowds (e.g. demonstrations) and
  • People who are visible in the background during a landscape photograph (accessory parts of the landscape)
  • Depicted person has given permission for use.


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