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3.3 Intellectual property rights

Although we cannot give legal advice, it is appropriate to take a look at issues connected to ownership of material on the Web. The internet has become synonymous with copyright violation, partly because of the huge volume of music and video that is being traded. Some online copyright violations are nonetheless tolerated for the common good: an example is the fact that the Google search engine makes a copy of every page it encounters.

However, the law applies to electronic materials as much as to paper materials, so just because it is technically possible for you to print out an online book chapter for all your students, you are not within your rights to do so unless you have permission of the copyright holder. In other words, material on public access (an internet term) is not necessarily in the public domain (a legal term).

As with other instances of copyright, you as a reader have 'fair dealing' rights that allow you to quote extracts from other works for purposes of research, criticism and reporting on current events. You can also make copies for your own personal use. Incorporating an online resource into a lecture presentation would be covered by this exemption, but printing out someone else's document for each of your students would not. Giving students the Web address of a document is, of course, allowable.

Copyright law allows special exceptions for educational institutions. For instance, 'Anything done for the purpose of setting or answering examination questions' is exempt from copyright, according to the UK government's intellectual property gateway.

Top Tip

A page that looks great in your favourite browser, on your screen through your fast internet connection, may not work so well on another platform, so do not just rely on how your pages look to you. Get another view of your material using a different browser, if you have a chance.

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3.2 Accessibility issues
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3.4 Student plagiarism