Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)

In the past, intellectual property rights (IPR) have largely been ignored in the world of e-learning. However, with the open sharing aspect of open educational resources (OERs) and their platforms, they are becoming crucial for future development. Copyright doesn't need to be registered; it is automatically applied to any content created. The details of who owns the copyright can vary and you will need to consider this before depositing anything inside Simshare. Traditional copyright can be restrictive when it comes to the world of online sharing; in order to bypass this you will be releasing your work under a Creative Commons licence. This will allow users to freely use and add to your work.

Further information regarding all aspects of IPR can be found at This includes a toolkit that offers multiple resources such as letter drafts, checklists and further FAQs.

What is IPR and why is it important?

Intellectual property rights (IPR) is a broad term used to describe rights owned and operated over creations of the mind. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted protection over intangible assets. These creations could be drawings, video, audio, text, images etc. JISC Legal have produced a guide which offers a good explanation of IPR inside the e-learning environment.

A lot of intellectual property will not be physically tangible but it can still be owned, distributed, sold and rented by those with the legal right to do so. IPR is affected by a number of different laws and rights, but in the realm of e-learning the most important to consider are copyright and moral rights.

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What is the difference between copyright and moral rights?

Copyright covers the owner's decision to grant or withhold the right for others to duplicate their work. When a piece of intellectual property is created, copyright is automatically assigned to the author. They can then enjoy the protection afforded by law over their work. Note that this might be assigned under a contract e.g. in most cases your employer and not you will have copyright in teaching resources you create.

Moral rights are automatically assigned to the creator of the work: they are designed to protect the personality and reputation of the author. Moral rights are not economic in their nature: they cannot be bought or sold and should the copyright change hands, the moral rights would still stay with the original author. In the event of the author's death, they can be passed to others. The main moral rights for authors are:

  • the 'right of paternity': the right to be identified as the creator
  • the 'integrity right': to protect the work from 'derogatory treatment'
  • the right to not have work falsely attributed to them.

It is worth noting that moral rights can be waived in contracts of employment or freelance contracts.

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In terms of copyright, what can I submit to Simshare?

If you or someone else inside your institution didn't create the simulation, then you probably don't own the copyright to it. You are able to submit resources that you or your institution owns with permission from your institution You are also able to submit 'third party resources': these are resources that you or your institution doesn't own, but have permission to submit.

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Who owns the copyright for the simulations submitted to Simshare?

Resources uploaded to the Simshare site will most likely have been created in universities by academic staff. The copyright of these simulations will be allocated to the employer as described in the staff member's employment contract. Students will generally retain the copyright to any simulations they create and deposit.

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What should I do if my simulation contains materials already under copyright (text, images, videos, audio etc)?

It is the obligation of the simulation author to establish the copyright of these materials. You cannot offer these under your Creative Commons licence. If permission has been sought to use these, this will only extend to the original application unless a Creative Commons licence was originally used. The original author will, most likely, still require referencing though.

There are several other options available to you should these resources not be offered under a CC licence. Find copyright-free materials to replace the items

  • Replace the items with a link to the original source
  • Replace the items with text or other description that will allow the users to find a replacement, perhaps more appropriate to their own context
  • Make it very clear where an item is not covered under CC licence release (i.e. . .)
  • Try to obtain permission from the copyright holder, but note that this is both time-consuming and may not be successful.

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How can I go about negotiating copyright clearance?

Before you submit to the Simshare site you should establish that you or your institution owns the resources or has permission to use them and share them inside Simshare. There is a useful checklist available on the site.

It is important that you are clear on what it is you want from the rights owner before you contact them. It can be a lengthy process so keeping any records of any clearance you negotiate is essential. Record any meetings, emails and conversations with the owner (or someone able to speak on behalf of the originator)and remember that this information needs to be stored for long term access. By recording these items you can satisfy any future copyright enquiries and protect yourself and your institution. Remember that it is beneficial for the owner to grant you permission; it is a good way for them to make new contacts and promote their institution and project.

There is a detailed guide regarding obtaining copyright on the site. Sections 3.5 - 6 of this document are particularly useful and document the IPR management, risk assessment, negotiation and licensing processes.

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If successfully negotiated, how will I receive permission to use the material?

Transfer of copyright from one party to another is covered by two broad types of agreement:

  • assignments: ownership over copyright is transferred (this is known as assignations in Scotland).
  • licences: no right of ownership is transferred but permission to use the materials is granted.

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What if I am unable to secure copyright clearance?

If you share resources without securing copyright clearances you will expose yourself or your institution to unnecessary risk. Could you summarise or describe the resource without actually including it? If not you should consider alternative, copyright cleared resources. We have included a list of sites below that offer copyright free and Creative Commons licensed resources. Some images will have moral rights and copyright but, in most cases, you will be able to contact the author to seek permission.

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