These guidelines outline basic copyright and trademark law principles that all teachers should be mindful of. While specific intellectual property laws vary from country to country, all teachers should follow these general guidelines.
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Skillshare values the dedication and hard work that our teachers pour into the platform every single day. Following is a set of intellectual property guidelines for teachers to review as they submit new content to the platform.
Keep in mind these guidelines are just that – general guidelines – and are not legal advice. Teachers who have any questions about how the guidelines or intellectual property law apply in a specific instance should contact a lawyer.
Teachers should only post content on Skillshare that they created and own – and which does not infringe on the intellectual property of others. In other words, teachers should not incorporate any content into a submission that they are not authorized to use, including videos, music, images, and artwork created by others.
The unauthorized posting of content on Skillshare that is owned by other parties – including content subject to a registered copyright or trademark – can lead to significant legal consequences for the teacher who posted the content, including financial damages. All submissions must comply with Skillshare’s Terms of Service, Community Guidelines, and Teaching Policies, which give Skillshare the right to remove any content that infringes on someone else’s intellectual property.
Copyright is a common type of intellectual property that protects original works of authorship. A copyright may cover many different types of works, including artwork, photographs, illustrations, musical compositions, sound recordings, books, movies and other audiovisual content, and much more. A copyright is automatically created once a work is “fixed,” or captured, in a tangible form – but a copyright owner may enhance its protection over a work by registering it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Other countries provide similar procedures.
Copyright owners have certain exclusive rights including the right to make and distribute copies of works they own, to display them publicly, and to create “derivative works” that include elements of their works.
Copyright law does not protect ideas or facts, but it may protect the way these things are expressed. That is because a copyright is capable of protecting only the original elements of work, and not the ideas expressed in the work or any factual components of the work. For example, copyright law does not protect the idea of teaching someone to play a song on a guitar, or even a method of teaching (because both are ideas) and it does not protect particular notes or a specific rhythm (which are factual in nature) – but copyright law may protect a teacher’s particular expression of that idea and those facts, such as a video of the teacher presenting a method of guitar instruction, or a newly created song that is a part of the lesson.
When you write an original script, or film a new class, you obtain the copyright for all of that original work. You may apply for a copyright registration in order to obtain greater protection for your work, but that is not required. (Likewise, just because you don’t see a copyright notice on someone else’s work does not mean that it is not protected by copyright).
A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies goods or services. A trademark owner has the right to use a specific word, phrase, symbol, or design in connection with specific goods or services in order to show that the owner is the source of those goods and services, and to prevent others from doing so in connection with their competing goods or services.
Any class submitted by a teacher to Skillshare must not contain trademarks (including any logos) that are owned by anyone other than the teacher submitting the class, if doing so is likely to confuse consumers of those goods or services as to their ownership, source, or affiliation. For example, if your inclusion of the trademark in your class could reasonably lead consumers to believe that you are the owner of the trademark or that you are affiliated with the trademark holder, you should not include the trademark in your video.
As with copyright law, using another person’s (or company’s) trademark is permitted if you are authorized, i.e. if you have a license to use that trademark. You may also use the trademark in a way that is not likely to confuse consumers of those goods or services (i.e. to identify someone’s product because it is relevant to your class, like mentioning a particular type of glue that may be used in doing an art project). But – as with copyright law – issues of whether use of someone else’s trademark is permitted can be complex. If in doubt, avoid using the trademark or consult a lawyer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a third-party’s copyright-protected content in my submissions to Skillshare?
Before using any other person’s copyright-protected content within a class, the safest step to take is to obtain written permission from the copyright owner of that content (a license).
In some instances, however, permission from the copyright owner may not be required if the teacher’s use of the protected content is a “fair use.” Fair use is a legal doctrine embedded in United States copyright law, and it is based on the idea that the public should be able to reuse copyright-protected content for specific, limited purposes (other countries’ laws often have similar principles, but they generally do not provide as extensive “reuse” rights as United States law does). Fair use allows a secondary user (i.e., a Skillshare teacher) to use protected content in limited circumstances. Whether a teacher’s use of another party’s content is a fair use depends on four factors:
- The purpose and character of the teacher’s use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes. Not every use with an educational purpose (or even every use with a “nonprofit” educational purpose) is a fair use, because courts have to review all four of the fair use factors to determine whether fair use applies.
- The nature of the other party’s copyrighted work. The second factor focuses on the characteristics of the copyrighted work – primarily the creativity of the work and whether it’s been published. If the work is highly creative, that weighs against fair use; if the work mainly presents factual or non-fiction information, that favors a finding of fair use. And if the work has not been published, that generally weighs in favor of fair use; if the work has been published, that weighs against fair use. That said, this factor generally gets the least attention when courts decide fair use cases.
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used by the teacher in relation to the other party’s copyrighted work as a whole. The more of the copyrighted work used, the less likely a court will find fair use – and by contrast, the less of the copyrighted work used, the more likely a court will find fair use. This applies both in terms of quantity (how many of the original work’s words, images, notes, etc. are used) and quality (even where someone takes a quantitatively small portion of the copyrighted work, fair use may not apply if the “heart” or most important or valuable part of the copyrighted work was used).
- The effect of the teacher’s use upon the potential market for or value of the other party’s copyrighted work. The fourth factor is commonly referred to as “market harm,” and it focuses on whether and what kind of financial harm the copyright owner will suffer as a result of the challenged use. Courts will look at whether using the copyrighted work takes away income from the copyright owner, or if the use would harm an existing or potential market for that work.
Weighing these factors is complicated, and even lawyers or judges may disagree on what type of use is permitted under the fair use doctrine or which factors should play a more important role in the analysis. Moreover, as noted above, this doctrine varies considerably from country to country. If you are planning to rely on this doctrine (or a foreign equivalent), it is always best to consult a lawyer on whether the use you are contemplating would be considered a “fair use” based on a review of these four factors.
I don’t know whether my class includes copyright or trademark-protected content! What should I do?
If you are ever in doubt, we recommend that you consult a lawyer who can advise on whether your class contains protected intellectual property, and whether a legal defense (such as fair use) might apply to allow you to use that intellectual property in your class.
I can use protected content because my class has an educational purpose.
Many people think that fair use applies whenever a particular work has an educational purpose. Unfortunately, that is not true. It is true that, under the first of the four fair use factors listed above, works with “nonprofit educational purposes” are more likely to be considered as fair use. However, not every use that has an educational purpose (or even a nonprofit educational purpose) is a fair use. Courts have to review all four of the fair use factors to determine whether fair use applies.
If I found content online for free, I can use it in my class without determining whether someone owns the rights to that content.
This is not true! Much content that is available for free on the Internet is protected by a valid copyright. Just because content is available for free or can be found online, you should not assume the content is unprotected and free for you to use in a class.
Skillshare directs educators to these helpful intellectual property resources, though we have not verified all of the information contained in them: