HCPT/Session 1: Rights

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When creating or distributing a podcast, it is important to make sure all necessary rights and permissions are secured for the material included in the podcasts. This is relatively easy if you create all of the material that is included in the podcast but can become progressively more complex the more you include material created by other people. In education this can be as simple as asking the lecturer to sign a release form and need not be unnecessarily complicated with professional film or television copyright forms. Nonetheless, if you do not obtain the necessary rights and permissions you may get into legal trouble for incorporating third party material into your podcast and for authorising others to use that material as part of your podcast.

For the purpose of audio recording a talk, the relevant rights fall into three broad categories:

  • Speakers own what they say (their 'performance') and so a release form is needed to give the rights to this to the institution.
  • The recordist also has rights to their recording (the 'physical' recording) and so needs to sign a release form.
  • However, other 'works' also have copyrights attached to them, for example songs, pictures, books, lectures, slides (third party copyright). Permissions from third parties is hard to clear, and so during the talk, you cannot play commercial music from CD, read poetry, or play commercial videos without running into copyright issues. However, you can read short extracts from books and articles.

Consequently a basic plan of action could be to:

  1. Ask the speaker - well in advance of the talk - if you can record their talk and distribute it over the internet.
  2. Ensure the speaker signs a release form.
  3. Ask if the speaker plans to use poetry, music or video, and if so seriously consider if recording and subsequent distribution is likely to be possible.
  4. Secure the permission of the recordist, who should also sign a release form.

You should note that the speaker may not be able to negotiate their own rights: For instance, if the speaker appears on behalf of an organisation, or the contract is being dealt with by the speakers agency. In these examples, we assume that the speaker can deal with their own rights, which often is the case for academic talks. However, depending on the home institution of the speaker, some of their work may be owned by their institution.

1 Permissions

A conversation (by email or otherwise) with a potential lecturer might go like this:

Organiser: "We were hoping you might be able to give a talk for us as part of our upcoming series on XYZ."
Lecturer: "That sounds great. I would be happy to do this."
Organiser: "By the way, to increase the impact of our talks, and to promote our cause as broadly as possible, we do what many organisations now do: We record all our talks, and put them online. Is this fine with you?"
Lecturer: "Yes, that's okay."
Organiser: "I'll email you a release form, and it would be great if you could sign it and post it back. Otherwise we can have one for you on the night."
Lecturer: "That's good, I'll get that back to you straight away."
Organiser: "When we do the recording, we have to make sure that we comply with copyright legislation. Could I double check whether you are planning to play any music, DVDs, or film during the talk, or whether you are planning to recite some poetry?"
Lecturer: "Nope, no poetry, music or DVDs of any kind."
Organiser: "Great, thanks!"

This is your best outcome and it means you can just go ahead and record/publish the talk without any issues.

If you are new to podcasting, there are a lot of issues you will have to think about, including technical, editorial, publishing and so on. You should try to keep things as simple as possible to make sure that you can go through all the required processes without getting stuck and to make sure that you see some fruits of your labour quickly. So if you have a choice over which talks to record pick some talks that are straight forward to record and where permissions are simple. Once you have a good overview and experience of the entire podcasting process you can move on to recording more complicated talks. We say this from experience: Where people try to "bite off too much", they get stuck and do not produce any output. This in turn leads to frustration and the view that it "cannot be done". So start with some easy talks!

1.1 Getting permission with "non-commercial" third party rights

A variant of the previous conversation, this time there are music and DVDs used, but they are not commercial:

Organiser: "When we do the recording, we have to make sure that we comply with copyright legislation. Could I double check whether you are planning to play any music, DVDs, or film during the talk, or whether you are planning to recite some poetry?"
Lecturer: "Ah, actually I have rather a lot of music and film."
Organiser: "What sort of film and music do you have? Is it commercial, or your own?"
Lecturer: "Nothing bought, it's all my own. The film is field-work footage from our trip to Antarctica."
Organiser: "Do you know who owns the rights?"

The conversation can now go several ways. Best case:

Lecturer: "We release all our materials under creative commons license, so as long as you comply with this, there are no problems."
Organiser: "Could you get us a list of items, and associated licenses?"
Lecturer: "No problem, it's all on my last slide anyway, so you can just copy it from there."

But more likely:

Lecturer: "It was all taken by me personally, and I do happen to know that at our institution, professors own their materials. Some of it was taken by a technician, so it would be owned by our institution, but as principal investigator on the project, I do know that the institution is happy for me to give you permission to use this."
Organiser: "As long as you are happy for the sound track of your films are reproduced in the audio recording, that's all fine. Would you be happy to get us the relevant permissions in writing?"
Lecturer: "Yes, I can just take photocopies of the relevant documents, is that okay?"
Organiser: "Yes, that's fine, thanks."

In this case you are basically okay: You need to carefully check that the lecturer can indeed give you the relevant permissions, and that you get the right forms signed and copies for permissions from the lecturer as appropriate. Get some advice from somebody (such as your institution's legal services) if necessary, but it is most likely fine.

1.2 Getting permission with commercial third party rights

Organiser: "When we do the recording, we have to make sure that we comply with copyright legislation. Could I double check whether you are planning to play any music, DVDs, or film during the talk, or whether you are planning to recite some poetry?"
Lecturer: "Ah, actually,I have rather a lot of music and film."
Organiser: "What sort of film and music do you have? Is it commercial, or your own?"
Lecturer: "No, it's all bought, some CDs, and some extracts from commercial DVDs. But I always show these, and I have heard that in an educational context this is all fine."
Organiser: "Unfortunately that isn't the case. There are very special conditions under which materials can be use in educational contexts, but our public talks don't fall under this, and recording the material certainly won't be possible."

What are your options? You obviously cannot go ahead and publish the talk regardless. Also, it will be expensive and possibly long-winded to clear the materials, so that is rarely an option (unless you have the budget, in which case at least music can be cleared relatively easily).

On a low budget, and if you want as much of the talk as possible, you essentially have three options:

  • You ask the speaker not to use any third party materials (You may be able to convince the speaker that recording the talk would be great, and really help to promote your cause, and so they may be happy).
  • You do not record the talk, and spend your effort on recording another talk instead.
  • You record the talk, but edit out all third party copyright materials.

The latter option is really only recommended if there are not many third party materials and if they can be removed easily. Therefore you need to talk more to the lecturer and see what can be done. However, complications are common: Usually, if the editing is done by volunteers, removing materials causes such long delays that the talk stops being topical and may not be worth publishing anymore.

A better cause of action would be to not use the entire talk but just publish some excerpts. Alternatively, record a separate interview with the speaker or even record the speaker giving a separate 5 minute summary of the talk. This would be much more efficient in term of effort and look much better than a heavily excised lecture.

1.3 Getting permissions for presentation slides

The above focuses on audio recording because it is the simplest thing to do and avoids problems with third party images in slides. Presentation slides can be hard to clear mostly because they usually contain images. Images are more complicated for two reasons: The speaker is much more likely to use images and tracking the rights is usually harder.

However, if the slides are entirely the lecturer's own work, i.e. if there are no images in the slides (and no other graphics that may belong to a third party) then it is fine to use the slides. You simply get the speaker to sign over the relevant rights.

If the slides have images/graphics you can of course use them if they are in the public domain, e.g. if copyright has expired, or the owner has released them (say under Creative Commons), or gives you adequate permission. Images from some organisations (e.g. NASA) are also acceptable provided you follow the terms and conditions on their website. Note that it is not neccessarily true that a person from an organisation can authorise the use of photos owned by that organisation.

2 Release forms, legal forms, complicated forms

Once the speaker has agreed to sign a release form you must know what form to use. The legal services of your institution will be able to advise you but such an approach can create complications. Typically, if faced with a lengthy and overly legalistic form a lecturer may simply decline to give permission whereas agreement may be secured if the lecturer had been presented with a shorter form that uses clear, concise statements. Similarly, phrasing the forms in terms of reciprocity can help; for instance, noting that you will provide the lecturer with free copies of the edited recording.

With forms the first option is to use a copyright-assignment. This gives you the greatest freedom, and could be recommended for situations where a performer is paid for their performance or where the performance constitutes only a small part in the whole work (e.g. a few sentences in a longer documentary). This is thus quite common for commercial film work.

However, the lecture recording situation is quite different. The performance (i.e. the lecture) is the main part, and it is also fully conceived of by the lecturer. Also, they are probably giving the lecture (at least partially) as a gesture of good will, possibly without payment. It would be quite unreasonable to expect the lecturer to sign away all rights in that performance. You can follow two strategies:

  1. The University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford each have a 'license form' through which the speaker gives the University a license. It means the speaker retains copyright, and can do what he or she likes with it while giving the university a license to use the recording. This is a good approach, but rests on form drafted by the institution's legal services. Before any podcasts are published at Oxford they need to have two signatures, a conventional speaker release form with a departmental signature.
  2. An additional approach is to make the material available as open content using the Creative Commons licensing scheme. In this approach you would ask the speaker to license their work (their performance on the day, and their slides etc) to your society (or to the world), e.g. under a 'CC-By' license. The "You" in this case would be your society/the world, and the "original author" would be you. As the license states, your fair dealing and other rights are in no way affected by the above.

2.1 Creative Commons

We briefly offer a few more thoughts on Creative Commons licensing. Firstly, the Creative Commons license is a license in perpetuity: That is to say, the lecturer gives you a license in perpetuity but if you give a CC license to the world this is also in perpetuity: You are unable to withdraw the material at a later stage. From an institutional perspective this may be a disadvantage but from the users perspective this is absolutely essential. The point of CC is that others can build on your works and so that you can build on works of others: For this the licenses need to be perpetual.

The lecturer may not have licensed their talk as CC yet so you might need to get something from the lecturer that states their intention. It is not clear what the right approach would be, but a common sense approach would be to get the lecturer to sign a simple letter to the effect that she or he wishes to license their lecture/slides under a CC license. For instance:

To whom it may concern.

I hereby license the performance of my lecture ..... [name of lecture/date] ..... and associates materials (my slides, my photographs, ....) for which I hold copyright under a CC-By (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/) license. This applies to all materials used in the lecture are my own.

3rd party materials: The following materials are not owned by myself ....... and I attach permissions from the third parties concerned. These are licensed as state in those permissions.

Signed ..... [lecturer] ......

Another consideration is that the CC licenses are usually one-to-many so the license letter may not need to mention you. However, there needs to be much more discussion in the UK higher education sector over the use of release forms and Creative Commons licenses.

2.2 Release forms

Web 2.0 Rights:

Disclaimer Statement: Whilst we hope you find the contents of this booklet useful and informative, the contents are for general advice and best practice purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We can give no assurances or warranty regarding the accuracy, currency or applicability of any of the contents in relation to specific situations and particular circumstances, appropriate professional legal advice should always be sought.

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