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June 24, 2009, 12:27 PM ET

Colleges Offer Online Help on Copyright Law for Instructors

As instructors prepare for the fall semester, colleges are trying to make sure their teachers aren’t breaking any copyright laws in their lectures.

The City University of New York’s Baruch College recently released an interactive guide to using multimedia in courses.

Baruch’s online guide begins with background information on copyrighted material, presented by a computer-animated middle-age man. Instructors can then click through the system’s “Copyright Metro,” which gives step-by-step verbal and written instructions on determining what materials can be used in courses legally. There are three “metro lines” that can be taken, depending on if the instructor plans to use the material in class or online, or if they have copyright-holder permission to use the material – which gets you a ride on the “express train” to the final stop, which says you can use the material.

Baruch is not alone in trying to prevent legal problems for itself or its professors. Among other institutions, Reed College has a traditional Web page that offers advice about using materials, with links to information from other college Web sites. The University of Maryland University College also has a site that has information for students and professors who want to legally use copyrighted material in classes and on the Internet. —Marc Beja

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