Students may play an active role

E-learning is more than just teacher-led education. Sometimes the students play an active part, too.

For example, they may ask questions or make their voice heard on the institution’s intranet. Students may participate in “threaded discussions” with the teachers and other students, or ask questions to the teacher via a blog.

Some teachers publish students’ papers etc. for other students as an example of how the work should be done – or not done.

When lessons and lectures are recorded and webcast, the students who participate in the session are often included in the recordings, even when they are asking questions.

And nowadays even ordinary schoolchildren have mobile phones etc. that are capable of recording lessons as film or audio. Many students see this as an advantage because it enables them to revisit the lesson later or at home before taking the exam. Some of them may even want to publish their recordings on YouTube or some other social network service for the whole world to join.

The question is – what does the law have to say about this?

What rights do students have to their own papers, etc?

Student’s written assignments will often be protected by the Copyright Act as literary work. Thus you cannot publish them on the intra- or internet, including in an e-learning context, unless the student(s) who have made them give the go-ahead. Therefore a teacher is not allowed to publish a student’s written assignment on the intra- or internet without prior permission. However, you are often allowed to quote from written assignments, that is, use small bits if you remember to cite the source. You can read more about legal quotes in Ophavsret for begyndere –  a beginner’s guide to copyright.

What rights do students have to their own contributions on the intra- or internet?

Students also have copyright to what they write on the intra- and internet, including discussions and questions on blogs. Therefore you are not allowed to re-use the student’s statements in other contexts unless they have given permission or it is a quotation.

What rights do students have in connection with webcast lessons?

Students often have copyright to what they say during classes. For example, their contributions to discussions with the teacher and other students, or questions they ask the teacher. Thus you are in principle not allowed to record and webcast what other students are saying unless they give permission. But when a student, who understands that the lesson or lecture is being recorded with a view to webcasting, still chooses to say something, you will normally assume that he or she has given valid legal consent to the webcast

Webcast may also present problems in relation to the Danish Act on Processing of Personal Data. In terms of law, a webcast of a student who participates in teaching constitutes »personal data« about the student, and may as a rule not be published on the intra- or internet unless he or she gives permission, or unless section 6, subsection 1, item 7 of the Act on Processing of Personal Data is applicable. Thus you can webcast and so on if you pursue »a legitimate interest and if the interests of [the student] do not supersede this interest«. It may be difficult to tell what this implies.

When consent to webcast is required, the consent must, according to section 3, subsection 8 of the Danish Act on Processing of Personal Data, be »voluntary, specific and informed«.

According to UBVA (the Committee for the Protection of Scientific Work) the rules should be construed as follows:

  • Students who do not say anything but sit passively among the audience cannot forbid webcasting of the lesson, not even if you may be able to see them on the recordings. In this kind of cases we find that section 6, subsection 1, item 7 of the Danish Act on Processing of Personal Data must be applicable.
  • Students who do say something during lessons or lectures that are recorded may in principle demand that the recording not be published on the intra- or internet until they have given their consent, and they will subsequently be entitled to revoke their consent. If they do so, the educational institution is obliged to remove the part of the recording where they are saying something from the intra- or internet. In practice this may be difficult to uphold in the context of everyday activities, but that is how the law rules at present.

Are students allowed to record the lesson or lecture?

Teachers have »educational managerial authority« which allows them to decide the tune to be played during teaching sessions, including when to have teacher-led classroom sessions, when to ask questions, whether you are allowed to drink coffee or read text messages during the lesson etc. Thus teachers can object to recording of the session. For many good reasons. For example, some teachers do not like being recorded and tend to restrain themselves when they are. Or the other students are more reluctant to say anything if they know that what they are saying is being recorded.

Teachers are not allowed to discriminate students unfairly in this context. For example, he or she is not allowed to say that only his or her favourite student is allowed to record the session. But it is legal to give visually impaired students special permission to record the session although others are not allowed to do so. In this case discrimination is not unfair, it is fair.

Students who with or without consent have recorded teaching sessions are not allowed to publish the recordings on the intra- or internet unless the persons appearing on the recordings give the go-ahead. This is because of the Danish Copyright Act and Act on Processing of Personal Data.

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