Schools and universities now host much of their course content online. Learning management systems such as Canvas and Blackboard allow students to access the content from anywhere, at any time of day. However, without adequate protection of your work, you could find your content resold or reused without permission. Therefore, if you create eLearning content — whether as a freelance writer or educational institution, you need to know how to protect your intellectual property (IP) rights. This article explains how to do this by drafting an eLearning intellectual property licence agreement.

Learning Management Systems

A learning management system (LMS) hosts eLearning content. It provides an online, accessible platform for education and training courses to be delivered to users. In Australia, popular LMS include Moodle, Canvas, Blackboard, Litmos and SchooX.

Each LMS offers different features. However, most LMS should have the ability to:

  • host online course materials such as audio, video and document files;
  • facilitate forums, wikis, blogs and personal messaging;
  • calculate and display data such as grades; and
  • enable users to download, edit and upload a range of document and multimedia file types.

If you create eLearning content for an LMS, you want to ensure that you also protect your IP rights. To do this, you will need an eLearning intellectual property licence agreement. However, the type of agreement you need will differ depending on whether you are a course creator or an external content provider. Each has different IP rights to protect.

IP Rights of Course Creators

A course creator provides content directly to students, publishing it on the LMS they operate. A common example is a university providing lecture notes. The biggest risk is that a student will republish it somewhere else. For example, by hosting the content on a blog, on YouTube, or even selling it on an online marketplace. This would be a breach of copyright.

Therefore, to protect their eLearning intellectual property rights, the course creator needs an agreement with every student who uses the content. This agreement will focus on how the students can use the content. For example, by specifying that it may only be used for the course, and not republished elsewhere. The course creator can have the students accept the agreement at the time they sign up for the course. 

IP Rights of External Content Providers

An external content provider does not provide content directly to students, but rather to the course creator. For example, you may run a freelance business writing educational content for a university. 

The biggest risk is that the course creator reuses the content without permission. For example, by paying to use it in one course, and then reusing it in a second course without payment. There is also a risk that students will republish the content externally.

Therefore, an external content provider needs an eLearning intellectual property licence agreement with the course creator stating that:

  • the provider retains intellectual property rights in the content;
  • the course creator does not own the content; and
  • the course creator agrees to be liable for their students’ misuse of the content.

The eLearning Intellectual Property Licence Agreement

Every intellectual property licence agreement will typically contain some key terms regarding how the content can be used or changed. 

Key Term Why it is Important
Using the content does not assign rights to the intellectual property Ensures you retain ownership of the content, allowing you to use it again
No republishing Stops the content user republishing your content without your permission (e.g. by reposting on a website)
No sublicensing content Stops the content user from giving your content to other course creators
No changing content Stops the content user from changing your content without permission
No broadcasting content Stops the content user from broadcasting the content in public (e.g. over YouTube)
No derivative works Stops the content user from adapting your content into new courses

 

Besides these key terms, you can also include terms tailored to your specific circumstances. For example, you may wish to restrict the age of users, or perhaps the timeframe within which your content is accessible. Importantly, if you intend to charge a fee for access to the content, the agreement should set out your payment terms. 

Key Takeaways

Many educational institutions now deliver eLearning content via an LMS. However, if you create content for an LMS, you must protect your IP rights. An intellectual property licence agreement will do this by specifying how users can and cannot use your content. In this case, ‘users’ can mean both students as well as the educational institution publishing the content.

If you need help drafting an eLearning intellectual property licence agreement, call LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Jacqueline Gibson
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