What You Need to Know About Copyright

Incorporating Others' Work

If you were to write a textbook or a scholarly paper and include in it the words or ideas of another author, you would cite your source and give credit where due; good scholarship would demand no less. The same is true when developing multimedia instructional materials. If you include in an activity you create some text that someone else wrote (as you might do with ART), images someone else has created or photographed (as might be the case in Picture Dictionary), or audio or video that was created by someone other than you, you must acknowledge the source from which you obtained this material. (Even if your Picture Dictionary contains 1,000 images from 1,000 different sources, you must cite them all.)

Of course, just citing your source may not be enough; if you are using material others have copyrighted, you should seek permission from the copyright holder or consider whether your incorporation of these materials into your project constitutes "fair use" as defined in copyright law. Many people believe that any educational use of copyrighted material is permissible; however, this argument alone is often insufficient. While limiting access to your activity by means of a password or restricting access to those on your campus network may appease some copyright holders (or at least make it harder for them to detect your use of their material), this is not an advisable long-term solution. If you have worked hard to create high quality materials, you will want to keep them around a long time (which is often inconsistent with the spirit of "fair use") and eventually share them with colleagues and students outside your institution. Whether or not you limit access to your materials, you should still take care to set a responsible example of good scholarship for your students by citing the source of all elements that you did not create yourself.

One approach to ensuring that you have permission to do whatever you want with media in your project is to create it yourself. Taking photos during your next trip abroad to use in your Picture Dictionary may be more time-consuming, but doing so may ultimately save you copyright-related headaches down the line and even result in more relevant, culturally authentic images than you would have found elsewhere.

Who Owns Your Work

Educational institutions and other employers have varying policies on who owns (and who holds the copyright to) works such as multimedia instructional materials created by their faculty and staff. Yale faculty creating activities with Comet templates should read the Policy on Ownership of Instructional Materials Created In the Course of CLS-Supported Projects for more information about this important issue. If you work somewhere other than Yale, you should consult with your employer about this question to be sure you understand your rights and responsibilities as the author of instructional materials.

Software and Activities on the Comet Site

The Comet templates themselves are copyrighted and are the property of Yale University. The source code for the Comet software is available for free to educational institutions, and its use is regulated by a royalty-free license, which sets forth stipulations that govern how other institutions may implement and distribute Comet materials. (Other organizations, including commercial users and publishers, should contact the CLS to discuss licensing options.)

The language-learning activities that are linked from the Comet site are also copyrighted and are owned by Yale. They are presented to represent the materials developed by Yale language faculty with the Comet templates, but Yale makes no guarantee that they will be available indefinitely. Permission to make use of original material in them may be sought by contacting the CLS or the respective activity author. Questions about pedagogical content in a particular activity should also be directed to the activity's author.


© 2005 Yale University Center for Language Study. All rights reserved.
~ Certifying Authority: Nelleke Van Deusen-Scholl