Answered By: Monique Ritchie
Last Updated: 12 Nov, 2014     Views: 542

The University's virtual learning environment Blackboard Learn, makes it easy to design interactive courses, that integrate multimedia, like YouTube content, to cater for different learning styles. However, if you'd like to embed YouTube clips for teaching and learning in your online courses within Blackboard, there are some intellectual property rights issues to be aware of, so that you and your students stay the right side of the law.

It's a common myth that content which is free to view online is also free to use. Sharing a link is not illegal in itself under UK copyright law. However, when it's shared with multiple users, what you can and can't do becomes increasingly murky. Some rights owners may object to a link on the basis that they might encourage third party infringement as shown in a recent case. If a link is accompanied by clear instruction to download or copy or anything that might be interpreted as such, this could constitute an infringement. 

Is the source credible?

‚ÄčVerify that the YouTube broadcaster is who they say they are. If they are traceable - and therefore more accountable - they may be less likely to be using infringing content themselves. Generally, content posted by an organisation is held to be more credible than content uploaded by an anonymous account holder, for instance. However, you shouldn't rely on this: many well meaning people are genuinely unaware that they don't have sufficient rights to upload and share third party content via YouTube.

Has the content been created by the YouTube account holder? 

YouTube only hosts third party content, and doesn't create or own the material uploaded. If the YouTube account holder hasn't created the content, check that they have the rights to lawfully broadcast it via YouTube. Disseminating content that has been illegally broadcast is secondary infringement under UK copyright law. All infringers, both primary and secondary, are liable for criminal charges and penalties if found guilty in the courts.

If you (or the institution) are creating content for YouTube, you may need to obtain clearance to use any third party content which appears in the clip. Typical examples of content which might need clearance are music, photographs, company logos or trade marks.

Does the rights owner consent to your use of the clips in the way you intend?

Even when you can view content freely online, intellectual property rights in that content still remain, unless they have expired. Rights can also be waived, but may be subject to terms. Remember, an individual independently browsing or viewing content online may be covered by the fair dealing statutory exception for non-commercial private study/research (see Section 29 in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) but this exception will not apply to a cohort of students, who are all viewing the content at essentially the same time for the same purpose. If the content is likely to be downloaded, it's good practice to get permission from the rights owner.

If you modify the content in any way, rather than just embedding a link to the YouTube video, you will certainly need the rights owner's permission. 

Is the content covered by a licence of some kind?

This depends on the content - it's impossible to generalise. You have to verify permissions for every clip you wish to embed or modify, to make sure it's OK to share it with multiple users in an educational context. This is because UK copyright law, implementing an EU Directive, gives owners the exclusive right to control the electronic communication of work to the public. (The public, in this context, refers to non-individuals, ie multiple users.) Check alongside the content for a statement of permitted uses in copyright notices, disclaimers or even within the content itself (it's logical for a copyright notice to be at the beginning or end of a video).  

Explicit consent from the copyright owner is needed to cover your intended purposes. Some rights owners may share content using Creative Commons licences, and permitted uses and terms vary depending on the licence variant used - but as there are only six, it's easy to work out what's allowed. If there's no indication from the rights owner on permitted uses and you have your heart set on the content, it can't hurt to ask for permission to use it. Keep a record of any consent you receive (e-mail permission is fine) so it can be produced on request if needed. You should also be certain that the person granting permission is authorised to do so.  Innocent infringement is still infringement, so can't be used as a defence. 

Working out what's possible can be complex, so if you need further advice, get in touch with the Copyright Officer or your Subject Liaison Librarian. Our contact details are available on the Library website.