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  • 3.2 Digital Learning Material
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The digital environment makes it easier to utilize various material and sources in both teaching and research. Teaching material can be illustrated by supplementary text, sound, images and links, as well as other copyrighted material. Also, the material may be produced by various individuals and entities where the ownership relationships and use rights must be agreed upon in writing.

 In terms of copyright, the publication and online dissemination of teaching materials always means making a copy and making it available to the public. Due to the public nature of teaching, publications of material in virtual learning environments are seen as making the material available to the public. A closed network environment, such as a university intranet, does not make the use private as intended in the Copyright Act; uploading copyrighted material online requires the copyright holder's permission.

Learning materials can be used more widely than just in one course.  To achieve this it is advisable to 

1) USE CITATIONS   according to good scientific practise, mentioning the authors and sources also in learning materials and using citation to illustrate the subject.




Examples using Creative Commons licensesPresentation CC BY.pptx


Screenshot of the MIT Open Courseware web page and MIT You Tube channel.


Citation provision and teaching material

According to the provision on citation, citations of others works may be included in learning material e.g. for illustrative purposes. The source of the quotation must be mentioned. [1] A problem arises, however, in estimating the permissibility of the citation, which must be assessed for each individual case. Citing is allowed to the extent required by the purpose, which varies with the type of work and discipline. Citale  images have their own provisions, according to which images can be reproduced without permission and without compensation for a critical or scientific presentation. The image may be a drawing or photograph of a work of art or a photograph. The image must be treated as part of a scientific text or presentation; it must not be ornamentation separate from the text. [2]

It is not permissible to make a compilation work of mere quotations, even if it should be pedagogically useful and justified.  

Taking into consideration the social and cultural principles behind university teaching, as well as the digital environment as a factor that improves the availability of teaching, the provision for citation within the university context should be interpreted in such a way that enables the production of learning material, particularly within the intranet of a university, where use can be limited to students and the scientific community. Copyright in the information society has been harmonized on a European level, by Directive 2001/29/EC given by the European Parliament and the Council on 22nd May, 2001 [3]. According to section 14 of Directive's commentary, the Directive should promote learning and culture by protecting works and other material while allowing exceptions and limitations in the public interest for training and educational purposes. The Directive also includes exceptions and limitations to the exclusivity of the author, but gives individual member states full discretionary power in implementing them. [4]


Agreeing on the right of use

From the university perspective, ownership and particularly the right of use for all teaching material produced in its sphere, can also cause interpretation problems. For types of work other than computer applications and databases, there is no provision in the Copyright Act about the transfer of rights in employment or permanent posts. The general rule of interpretation is that the employer obtains rights for the use of the work to the extent required by their normal operations. Determining this is not often very easy. Therefore, it is always advisable to make an explicit agreement between worker and employer.

The pronouncement 1998:20 by the Copyright Council demonstrates questions about the copyright holder in cooperation projects between several universities. The pronouncement dealt with the copyrights born for the digital teaching material in the Psykonet online University formed jointly by the Psychology Departments of the Universities of Helsinki, Tampere, Jyväskylä and Joensuu. The Council was asked, among other things, whether the copyrights born in the project can be assigned to the cooperation project and what happens to these rights after the end of the project. According to the pronouncement by the Copyright Council, copyright is always born to a natural person, or to persons, who with their creative input have participated to the creation of the material in question. [5] Copyright can be transferred to a legal person, such as a company or a university.  The transfer is not subject to a specified form.  Employment, a permanent post or a contractor relationship may, even without express contractual terms, cover the transfer of copyright - or the right of use - to some extent. According to the Council, the inter-university cooperative project Psykonet is, however, not such a civil legal person who is capable of the management of intellectual property rights and serves as the recipient of such transferred rights. Therefore, the natural persons (authors) of the cooperative project, who with their creative input participated in the creation of the material, are generally seen as the copyright holders for the teaching materials in such cooperative projects. The extent, to which the rights are seen to have transferred to singular universities, is agreed upon between the parties.  Transfer of the rights and the extent of the transfer is ultimately a question of evidence, where the burden of proof is with those who claim the transfer has taken place. Copyright is born to the author of the work, even when the work is created in employment, a permanent post or contractor relationship. The transfer of copyright from author to the employer or client can be agreed upon.  The employment, permanent post or contractor relationship may, even without express agreement terms, cover the transfer of copyright to some extent.


Use of third-party material 


When the teaching material created by a teacher is illustrated with any text, sound, pictures or other copyrighted material created by a third party, the use of such material must either be limited to the extent permissible under copyright exceptions and limitations or covered by an agreement.


Since digital material may be produced by several people or bodies, it is best to agree on the ownership and access rights in writing. For copyright purposes, saving and distributing material via an information network is always considered equivalent to reproducing the work and making it available to the public. Also using material in a virtual learning environment constitutes making it available to the public. Publishing material in a closed network environment, such as the university intranet, does not constitute private use referred to in the Copyright Act (Tekijänoikeuslaki 404/1961). In consequence, putting copyrighted material on a network requires either an applicable copyright exception or limitation or obtaining permission from the rightholder. The rightholder may authorise the use of his/her material by means of, e.g. a licence agreement. The extent of a Creative Commons licence and the uses permissible under it are easily understood from the licence name and the associated logo, which, in turn, are linked to the detailed legal code of the licence and an explanation of the rights granted under it. The rights granted under a given licence have been defined intelligibly but precisely.  For additional information on Creative Commons licences, see


Electronic resources of university libraries

University libraries have a wide base of electronic resources, such as scientific articles, which teachers and students may use in accordance with the terms of use for electronic resources.Providing links to the e-resources of the library in the teaching material ensures compliance with the terms of use and allows the library to compile statistics on the usage rate of a given resource and evaluate its usefulness. Compliance with the terms and conditions for e-resource use thus allows the library to collect statistics on the articles and e-materials used and to subscribe to the most used e-resources also in the following year.


Guidelines on the access rights of e-resources have been issued by libraries. For instance, the Aalto University guidelines are available through the links below. (fi) (eng)


Teachers considering a given article as course material  must first find out whether the article is already available as an e-resource at the university and if yes, use the e-resource as instructed by the libraries. 
 The university has concluded agreements with publishers of scientific journals and agreements on the use of journals, and it may have access to e-books and journals  from various suppliers. When such resources are included in the digital teaching material, a link to the e-resource of the library can often  be provided in the course pages.   For some  materials the university  may not have purchased  a license for teaching purposes,  check the e-linking guidelines :



Agreements on the use of different resources and the related practices may vary in different university  by libraries.


The library may have a possibility to use a URL shortening service to facilitate linking to an article. Creating such a link requires a permanent URL, because simply searching the article in a database and copying the address as a link will produce a link that will only work for a few hours. The permanent URL is usually given in connection with the abstract of the article, and has different names such as persistent link to this record (Ebsco), Document URL (ProQuest), and also Open URL and DOI links are used.


The users must comply with the terms of use specified in the agreements concerning different types of resources. For instance, the end user rights in material acquired via FinElib are visible at .


Examples on electronic resources in which the library has acquired rights:
Using an entire article as part of digital teaching material may be allowed under a Creative Commons licence or some other licence compliant with the principle of open access.
Teachers may also obtain permission to use the article directly from the publisher or the author of the article where the author is also the rightholder.



Digital use of works from open websites  at universities and polytechnics under the Digital Licence of Kopiosto


The Digital Licence of Kopiosto in brief:

With the Kopiosto Digital Licence, the staff and students of educational institutions can scan printed publications and copy text and images from open websites. The licence applies to both domestic and foreign materials. Material is only allowed to be used to course participants and during the course, so if longer time or more use is wished for, it is advisable to use citations to illustrate scientifc texts  or materials licensed with suitable  Creative Commons licenses.  Source and authors of material have to be always attributed.

  • Printed publications include books, newspapers, magazines, research reports, and user manuals, among other things.
  • Scanning means saving printed publications as digital files.

The Kopiosto Digital Licence does not discriminate between technologies and applies to converting material into a digital format, for instance with a scanner, digital copy machine, digital camera or document camera.

Creators and publishers have widely authorised Kopiosto to act on their behalf and grant permission to digitally copy and use works in education and research. Section 26 of the Copyright Act extends the Kopiosto licences to also apply to those creators and publishers that are not directly represented by Kopiosto by virtue of authorisation.

Pursuant to section 14 of the Copyright Act, creators and publishers have the opportunity to prohibit the digital copying and use of their works. Kopiosto maintains a list of those copyright owners and prohibited works that are reported to it. As regards publications, copying prohibitions can also be listed in the publications or webpges. University staff must adhere to these copying prohibitions.

Furthermore, the Digital Licence does not apply to usage situations where the licence owner directly licenses the use of his/her works or the licence holder is entitled to use the work in question by virtue of some other agreement or licence. When the publisher has a license agreement with the ubiversity, the university complies with the terms of the license agreement.

A few copies of works can be made for private use within the family; other copying of works is subject to a licence.                      

If the terms of the Kopiosto  Digital License decribed above aplly, teachers are allowed to copy, during a single term or education period, a maximum of 20 pages but no more than 20% of a publication for a given group of students. The licence authorises teachers to copy an article published in a scientific journal in its entirety, or 50% of an article published in a compilation (book).

The Kopiosto  Digital Licence does not apply to the universities’ centres for continuing education, summer universities, or open universities. 

Please note that use of material allowed by  a Creative Commons licence or other licence is not stamped or reported in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Digital Licence of Kopiosto. At the moment, Kopiosto does not require universities or polytechnics to stamp their scanned materials or report on the used online resources. Kopiosto will issue updated guidelines to universities .

It is recommended that any material used under the Digital Licence agreement be stamped by the teacher in the Kopiosto stamping service.

 Reporting is recommended because it allows Kopiosto to allocate remuneration for the digital use of materials to the copyright holders. The rightholders of material used at universities that are represented by Kopiosto  are usually university alumni, researchers, non-fiction authors, photographers and illustrators, and reporting on the use of copyrighted material created by them ensures that they receive appropriate remuneration.  You can try Kopiosto’s reporting and stamping service via this direct link:



Notes and References

[1] Copyright Act

[2] Copyright Act

[3] European Parliament and the Council, Directive 2001/29/EC, Section 14

[4] European Parliament and the Council, Directive 2001/29/EC, Section 14

[5] Copyright Council 1998:20