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Old 06-03-2013, 06:51 PM
 
1,233 posts, read 2,740,717 times
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Evening, all. I have a little dilemma for which I could use a little advice. I am a technology teacher at my school. This year, teachers were required to maintain classroom webpages. Several teachers included images of popular cartoon characters on their sites. As the webmaster for my school's sites, I went through the sites and, after checking with my supervisor, replaced some pictures that I thought could get us in trouble.

Well, now some of my colleagues are annoyed with me. They're insisting that because the images are available on Google images, and because our website is non-commercial/educational in nature, the images can be used, either under fair use or public domain laws. I say that's not necessarily the case, and it's better to be safe than sorry. I'm not an attorney, but I'm fairly well-versed in law for a layman, and I know that some copyright holders have sent out cease and desist letters in cases similar to this.

What do you all think? Am I being too anal about this, or should I stand my ground? Thanks for any advice.
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Old 06-03-2013, 06:53 PM
 
Location: On the brink of WWIII
21,093 posts, read 25,611,687 times
Reputation: 7812
You are the tech teacher. Of all people the school relies on you to know the law and keep them outta court.
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:07 PM
 
Location: Wisconsin
19,104 posts, read 20,301,827 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zthatzmanz28 View Post
You are the tech teacher. Of all people the school relies on you to know the law and keep them outta court.
I agree. The other teachers shouldn't be complaining that you want to keep them out of jail.
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:09 PM
 
Location: St Louis, MO
4,677 posts, read 5,159,016 times
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Just remember that by doing what you are doing, you are exerting editorial control on those websites. That might expose you personally to liability for any images you miss. You district should have lawyers; ask them.

You might be better off taking a hands off approach and simply complying with any cease and desist letters that show up. (In that scenario, you might even be able to ask the copyright holder if there is an acceptable use for which they would provide permission.) But this is certainly a better question for your lawyers. (But remind them that you are exerting editorial control if they tell you to unilaterally remove the pictures. Do not let them push you into a situation where you expose yourself to liability.) If this were not an intellectual property issue, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act would put you on better footing. Since it is intellectual property though, early editorial control rulings on internet postings might apply. And there is still state law, where the impact of Section 230 is really murky.
I am not a lawyer, much less a lawyer for your state, so consult one to figure out how to handle this.
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:10 PM
 
Location: Space Coast
1,988 posts, read 4,897,324 times
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I agree that you should stand your ground. Maybe they could look at true public domain pictures, such as those on Wikimedia Commons?
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Old 06-03-2013, 07:15 PM
 
24,497 posts, read 37,515,385 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by germaine2626 View Post
I agree. The other teachers shouldn't be complaining that you want to keep them out of jail.
Jail?
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Old 06-03-2013, 08:38 PM
 
Location: Wisconsin
19,104 posts, read 20,301,827 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by germaine2626 View Post
I agree. The other teachers shouldn't be complaining that you want to keep them out of jail.
Quote:
Originally Posted by NJBest View Post
Jail?
Who knows how "creative" some of the teachers may get on their websites?
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Old 06-03-2013, 09:24 PM
 
16,833 posts, read 15,357,122 times
Reputation: 20788
Quote:
Originally Posted by zhelder View Post
Evening, all. I have a little dilemma for which I could use a little advice. I am a technology teacher at my school. This year, teachers were required to maintain classroom webpages. Several teachers included images of popular cartoon characters on their sites. As the webmaster for my school's sites, I went through the sites and, after checking with my supervisor, replaced some pictures that I thought could get us in trouble.

Well, now some of my colleagues are annoyed with me. They're insisting that because the images are available on Google images, and because our website is non-commercial/educational in nature, the images can be used, either under fair use or public domain laws. I say that's not necessarily the case, and it's better to be safe than sorry. I'm not an attorney, but I'm fairly well-versed in law for a layman, and I know that some copyright holders have sent out cease and desist letters in cases similar to this.

What do you all think? Am I being too anal about this, or should I stand my ground? Thanks for any advice.
Fair use is very broad and completely and utterly slanted in the favor of teaching, in all likelihood no one is going to sue a public school for having a sponge bob picture on an educational website. And before anyone is going to be sued, a C&D goes out. Take it down then.

So take the issue to the well paid, BOE lawyer, and let him/her do their actual job.

Because convincing a bunch of teacher to put in the time and effort to make webpages and then editing them is just asking for trouble.

BTW how exactly are teachers violating the fair use guidelines with some character pictures? Pictures have been supported again and again in fair use cases. They are not making a profit. And are not harming the copyright owner.
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Old 06-03-2013, 09:53 PM
 
2,612 posts, read 5,060,824 times
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I think you are both right and wrong. What lkb0274 says is true - they would probably not be able to win a lawsuit since no money was made and they didn't lose money on the images. However, it takes money to fight a lawsuit, even a frivolous one, and schools have settled before in order not to have to pay for a long fight. It is quite possible that the school could be sued over the images and that it would cost them money, even if the fair use law is solidly on the teachers' side. It has happened many times before.

On the other hand, if I were a teacher who'd put time into a website only to have someone go in and edit it on their own, without my permission, I'd be livid. This would be especially true if I hadn't been warned beforehand that that might happen. It's heavy-handed and just disrespectful. You could have saved yourself the trouble by simply explaining the copyright issue to the teachers and requesting that they remove the image or offering to remove it and replace it for them. You might also acknowledge the reality that you are being more conservative than legally necessary because it's better to be safe than sorry.
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Old 06-04-2013, 05:02 AM
 
1,233 posts, read 2,740,717 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marie5v View Post
I think you are both right and wrong. What lkb0274 says is true - they would probably not be able to win a lawsuit since no money was made and they didn't lose money on the images. However, it takes money to fight a lawsuit, even a frivolous one, and schools have settled before in order not to have to pay for a long fight. It is quite possible that the school could be sued over the images and that it would cost them money, even if the fair use law is solidly on the teachers' side. It has happened many times before.

On the other hand, if I were a teacher who'd put time into a website only to have someone go in and edit it on their own, without my permission, I'd be livid. This would be especially true if I hadn't been warned beforehand that that might happen. It's heavy-handed and just disrespectful. You could have saved yourself the trouble by simply explaining the copyright issue to the teachers and requesting that they remove the image or offering to remove it and replace it for them. You might also acknowledge the reality that you are being more conservative than legally necessary because it's better to be safe than sorry.
Thank you for the advice. You make some very valid points. I did ask my supervisor, a person who is extremely well-liked and who has a reputation for being very fair and reasonable, about changing the images and she advised me to do so. In hindsight, I should have informed the teachers about this issue before the changes were made. I just didn't think about it at the time.

The other issue is that if legal issues were to arise from use of these images, there's a 110% chance that the school district would hold us (the technology teachers) responsible along with the offending teachers, even if we had nothing to do with the uploading of the images. I'm not willing to put myself in a situation like that.
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