Recognition of fair use of third-party digital contents in e-learning

Chou Yung-ping and Chang Yun
National United University
Miaoli, Taiwan

This paper considers the issue of copyright in e-learning in Taiwan colleges, most of which have been developing their respective e-learning resources in recent years to improve their learning environments and enhance competitiveness in the information era.

The most common measure is for the faculty staff to publicize instructional digital content, such as PowerPoint or Word files, on the Internet. This inevitably raises potential copyright infringements as in most cases the colleges do not have a copyright counselling and/or authorization service. In addition, the current Taiwan copyright law has not yet included clear regulations for fair use of digital contents for educational purposes, unlike many countries where such regulations are enforced (e.g. the TEACH Act in the United States). As a result, many teachers in Taiwan confuse fair use on the Internet with fair use in face-to-face teaching.

A questionnaire survey on this issue carried out by the authors at a teaching-oriented university showed that the participants' level of recognition of fair use varied widely. The paper presents examples of the most serious misunderstandings of fair use of other people's digital content. It also outlines the criteria for fair use on the Internet for non-profit, educational purposes according to the current Taiwan copyright law and compares these with the TEACH Act. Finally, based on their understanding of digital copyright laws and the technical-protection mechanisms in the Blackboard learning system, the authors provide advice to ensure fair use in educational institutions.