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Published October 7, 2012 | Multidisciplinary

The Rights and Responsibilities of Publishing Digital Course Notes

Warning: The information presented here is general in nature and does not in any way constitute a legal opinion.

As a librarian, I am often asked by teachers how to post lecture notes in digital format. Beyond the technical aspects of digital publications, where your IT Representative is your best source of information, my job is to ask whether you have cited your sources and where appropriate, whether you have the rights to use the images or videos in your text.

This column will attempt, without going into the details of the Copyright Act (The new Copyright Act in Canada (Bill C-11) adopted in June will come into force only after a decree, which should happen in the next few weeks.), to outline the rights and responsibilities of the author of a digital publication.

I was motivated to write this column not only by my duties as librarian at the CDC but through my work during the Labo VTÉ workshop on using the digital textbook (S'approprier le manuel numérique). Take a look at the work of this workshop (in French) to obtain more information on the technical aspects of digital publishing.

Your Homework

When authoring a publication such as your class notes, your primary duty is quite simple, namely to ensure that you are complying with copyright restrictions! As mentioned by Daniel Marquis in his Profweb report 'Les droits d'auteur et l'utilisation pédagogique d'Internet' (in French) it goes without saying that you need to cite your sources. You should also read the section "I use a computer to learn in aa hn autonomous and responsible manner." on the InukTIC site. Regarding images and videos, here are some rules of good practice to ensure legal use. You can pay for photos (commercial banks), take photos yourself, or use copyright-free images and videos on academic sites such as World of Images from the CCDMD. You can also visit your college librarian. A number of librarians have negotiated the acquisition of rights to use image data bases in various arts and sciences.

"Sharing your own photos in World of Images is a smart move!"

Sac d'école

Sac d’école, © Marc Étienne Desrosiers, World of Images, CCDMD

Your Rights

According to Canadian copyright law, any person who is the author of a work or publication, automatically has copyright. In the college network, teachers hold a copyright on their writings. For example, in the Management of Intellectual Property Policy (Politique de gestion de la propriété intellectuelle) at Cégep de Matane, section 4.1 of the document recognizes the copyright of teachers on their work as part of their working conditions. We can also read in collective agreements for teachers that books or course notes, including those in audiovisual or electronic form, where the teacher is the author or contributing author can not be used without prior consent (Article 8-1.03 of the collective agreement of teachers affiliated with the Fédération nationale des enseignantes et des enseignants du Québec (FNEEQ (CSN)) Fédération des enseignantes et enseignants de cégep (FEC-CSQ).

How to recognize your rights? Good news! As soon as a work is created, it is protected unless the author has assigned their rights or shared them with an editor or a rights management company such as Copibec.

ANEL (Association nationale des éditeurs de livres) proposes three methods to physically and/or intellectually protect digital publications.

  • Forbid downloading! (consultation online only)
  • Discourage copying (watermark)
  • Technically limit (DRM or Digital Rights Management or digital locks; in French GDN or Gestion des droits numériques)

Otherwise, in the spirit of sharing, we can assign a publication license Creative Commons, which releases certain intellectual property rights. In the Profweb report by Daniel Marquis which was quoted above, he explains in detail the allocation of these licenses.

And the Rights of Readers?

It is important to ensure that your publication is available on several platforms and anticipates technological changes that may occur, to ensure its longevity. A good practice is to meet the standards of publications and broadcasts. The Quebec Working Group on Standards (Groupe de travail québécois sur les normes) can answer many of your questions.

For more information, you are invited to check my bookmarks (in French) which were developed in the Labo VTÉ on publishing digital textbooks.

And always when dealing with copyrights, keep Profweb in mind because next week's column will be about using materials protected by copyright. Yes, it is possible!

Do you think that the issue of copyright receives the attention it deserves, especially since the debut of the Internet?

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