Case study: Question 4

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Case study summary

Developing an online course for Shakespeare's Hamlet

Entrance to Shakespeare's Birthplace sign-13Feb2005.jpg
Theresa Brown, an English literature educator, is developing an online course on Hamlet by William Shakespeare. The course will be delivered using the learning management system (LMS) hosted by her education institution. Registered students are provided with password access for the LMS. A number of students do not have affordable access to the internet at home, so Theresa wants to include copies of resources in the LMS so they can be accessed through the institution's local network. She plans to include the following resources:
  1. The full text of Hamlet edited by Charles Kean who died in 1868.
  2. An image of the portrait of Hamlet, by William Morris Hunt (1824 - 1879) housed by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
  3. A digital copy of the Cobbe portrait of William Shakespeare recently discovered in March 2009. (See press release by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.)
  4. A copy of the BBC video providing an overview of the major themes of the play.
  5. Theresa has compiled a slide show with an audio summary which she will host on Slideshare. Her slide show was based on her own original research work drawing extensively on her article published in the Australian Humanities Review, an open access journal.


We suggest you write down your answers so you can check these against the self-assessment activities which follow. In each case, you should identify:

  • whether the resources are protected by copyright;
  • who owns the copyright; and
  • in your opinion, can Theresa include copies of these materials in her course without consent or permission from the copyright holder.

This case study was inspired by ideas in the Copyright 4 Educators (ZA) course. Note that for the purposes of this case study, Theresa is a fictitious character and has not published in the Australian Humanities Review.

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Copyright questions on the BBC video
Choose the correct option. Afterwards, we suggest that you review the feedback on the incorrect options as these also contain valuable information.

These questions are based on the BBC video

  • Is the video protected by copyright?
    • Yes
      • Correct. The video is an artistic work and is protected by copyright which is owned by the BBC.
    • No
      • Incorrect. The video is owned by the BBC and is protected by copyright because it is an artistic work.
  • Given that anybody with an Internet connection can access and view the video, can Theresa include a copy of the video in her course?
    • Yes
      • Incorrect. The fact that the video is accessible by anyone on the web, does not change the status of the copyright. The terms of use on the BBC site clearly state that users "may not...reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, adapt, modify, copy, reproduce, lend, hire, rent, perform, sub-license, make available to the public, create derivative works from, broadcast, distribute, commercially exploit, transmit or otherwise use in any way BBC Online Services" (excerpt from section 3.2.3 (d)).
    • No
      • Correct. Theresa would not be able to make a copy of the video for inclusion in her course without prior permission from the copyright holder. At best she can include a link to the BBC video, ensuring that learners are clear that they are viewing the video on the BBC website at the point they leave the online version of her course.