Using photographs and other materials in professional presentations

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  • I have a faculty member that needs to know what is and is not okay when it comes to using photographs and other copyrighted materials in a professional presentation. They are not getting paid for this presentation. So, is it allowable to do a fair use analysis and use any materials without permission (if fair use applies)? Or is this an area that really needs the presenter to obtain permission. Any help you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks!

    Jodi Poe, Distance Education Librarian and Electronic Resources Manager
    Houston Cole Library
    Jacksonville State University
    Jacksonville, Alabama
  • It is always allowable to do a fair use analysis. If fair use is found to apply, permission for that use is not needed. If fair use does not apply (and remember that fair use involves a very slippery and uncertain analysis), one must either give up the planned use or get permission from the rights holder.

    You should not forget, however, to ask if any other exceptions to copyright apply to the situation. Because the other exceptions are much more fully defined (and also therefore more narrow), there is more security to be had by relying on one of them, where possible, rather than fair use.

    For some professional presentations, for example, the "face-to-face teaching" exception in section 110(1) of the copyright act will permit the display of images to a gathered audience. The presentation must be part of the "face-to-face teaching activities of a non profit educational institution," and take place in a "classroom or similar place devoted to instruction." I was recently at a conference on computer law that took place in a campus auditorium at a Northeast university, and the application of this exception was discussed there after several presenters used copyright images in their slides. The general consensus amongst the participants -- some were lawyers but most were regular people -- was that the conference was part of the university's teaching activities and was taking place in a place devoted to instruction, so the 110(1) exception probably applied.

    In a digital world, of course, display of images usually also requires the making of a copy. The 110(1) exception only authorizes certain public performances and displays, so a fair use analysis will still be necessary to permit the underlying copy. But that fair use case seems stronger to me when the copy is ephemeral and made to support a permissible display.
  • I agree with ksmith about the face-to-face teaching exception being the most likely rule to cover this situation. Most of the professional conferences and workshops I attend do include presenters who exhibit copyrighted material, like film clips. I would say this also covers professional conferences and workshops (under the auspices of a non-profit organization like the Popular Culture Association, for example) that take place in a location other than a university campus, like a hotel. You could argue that the meeting room becomes a de facto classroom for the duration of the meeting. There's also the fact that it's criticism and scholarship, which puts a good deal of weight in the fair use side of the balance. (When you get into published conference proceedings, that might get a bit stickier.)
  • For what it is worth, when my presentations are published either in proceedings or on a conference website, I always remove material that is not original to me, except for things that are licensed under a Creative Commons license or are otherwise used with permission.

    I am less convinced than Janet that a presentation at an association gathering in a hotel would fall within 110(1), since it is not clearly part of the teaching activities of a specific non-profit educational institution, but I agree that there will still be a good fair use argument in many of those cases.
  • Thank you for your replies. This helps. I will pass along your thoughts to my nursing faculty. Again, I appreciate your assistance with this. I did not even think about the f2f aspect.
  • ksmith, I guess it would depend on whether the umbrella organization was (a) non-profit and (b) included education as part of its mission statement. For example, I belong to the Mythopoeic Society, which meets both these critera. So I would argue that whether we meet on a college campus or in a hotel, presenters who show clips from Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies as part of their papers are doing so as part of the educational mission of a non-profit society. Now if this conference was sponsored by a for-profit organization, like TheOneRing.Net, i could see how this might not be allowable without permission.
  • I suppose the question of whether a scholarly society falls within the definition of an "educational institution" could be argued either way, and only the judge would get the final say. I am more skeptical about the other requirement in the 110(1) "face-to-face" teaching exception, that the performance take place in a "classroom or similar place devoted to instruction." I would have a hard time keeping a straight face as I tried to convince that judge that a hotel ballroom met that stipulation. I guess one would argue 110(1) and fair use in the alternative, but I would put my money on 107.

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