Guest post: Fighting the fear of copyright with the GCU Online UK Copyright Advisor

This guest post is from Marion Kelt, our Open Access and Research Librarian.

Fighting the fear of copyright with the GCU Online UK Copyright Advisor

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 09.08.09

My name is Marion Kelt and one of my many tasks is to act as Copyright Advisor at GCU. With the rise of online courses and transnational education there has been an increase in the number and types of copyright enquiry. Another aspect of my job is to promote the building and use of OERs (Open Educational Resources). One of the main barriers to their uptake is a general fear of copyright and licensing issues. They are the elephant in the room, we all know it is there, but nobody wants to admit it exists!

We developed an online copyright advisor to help staff and students to quickly answer the most frequently asked questions on commonly used resources. We also wanted to share the result with the wider academic community, as we felt that it would be a useful tool which could be easily customised to fit the needs of different institutions. It is available here.

The other reason to develop a system was to save myself from having to answer the same questions repeatedly, and to provide a 24-7 resource to help enquirers with the more straightforward questions.

It all started with our list of FAQs. As you know, we often build FAQ pages which are then ignored and our users ask us anyway! We had been keeping a note of enquiries so we could reuse answers, but started wondering if there was a way that we could use it to develop an online resource. Of course we looked around to see if there were any OERs which could either do the job, or be adapted to suit. Although we did come across some, they did not quite meet our needs and were tied to institution specific software.

We decided to tackle FAQs on seven types of resource:

  • Audio files
  • Book chapters
  • Computer code
  • Journal articles
  • Maps
  • Video files

First we developed flowcharts of questions and answers, then we developed a list of text answers to the questions and a glossary.

We found that one or two people working together was not enough, so we formed a group. It was made up of:

  • Me (Copyright Advisor)
  • Susan Cunningham (Library Admin)
  • Toby Hanning (Systems)
  • Nicky Stewart (Systems)
  • Elinor Toland (PURE Repository)

This helped with the logical flow of questions and ensured consistency of language. These documents are available here.

We built the advisor using iSpring software which was compatible with edShare. We already had a licence for it and it integrates well with PowerPoint. It was simple to set up the questions and paths through the system. The main snags are that iSpring only allows forward navigation, and that it was not clear how to restart the advisor if you had another question. We later found that refreshing the browser or hitting F5 restarts it.

The design is very plain at present, though we do have plans to improve this in the next version. We aimed to keep our answers as positive as possible, suggesting alternatives rather than forbidding certain actions. Some of the answers can be a bit “wordy”, so we added traffic lights to give quick visual cues to our users. We also added links where possible, so we link to the licenses we refer to, the library web pages and our own quick copyright glossary.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 09.14.43We are now on version two of the advisor and are promoting it to the GCU community. We have made the advisor available under a Creative Commons (CC) license, so if you like what it does, you can download a zip file of the content and adapt it for your own purposes. If you would rather start from scratch, but use our workflows and texts as a starting point, feel free! They are also available under CC licence. I found that developing these was the hardest part of the project – we spent many hours in a small room arguing about copyright. The good news is that we have done it so that you don’t have to!

We would love you to look at the advisor and use it as much as you want. We would welcome your questions and feedback, even if you are pointing out mistakes that may have slipped through the net! You can contact me at , I’m always happy to chat!


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