Copyright Limitations and Exceptions in an E-Education Environment

Maria Daphne Papadopoulou


E-education plays an important role in improving access to knowledge for the present and the next generation society. New and emerging technologies give the possibility to educators to reach individuals and communities in numbers and in manners that were in the past unimaginable. Nevertheless, capacity without content is useless; e-education involves -if not always at least in most of the cases- the use of pre-existing copyrighted works. The ‘e-educational institution’ has two options: either to seek license from the copyright owner or to rely on the existing copyright exceptions or limitations. Obtaining license is not always easy due to difficulties in locating the copyright owner, due to the unreasonable process or terms and due to delays in getting a timely response. On the other hand it is questionable whether the existing limitations or exceptions do cover all the uses of the copyrighted works during -or for- the e-education activities.  

The aim of this paper is to present the relevant copyright exceptions or limitations and to analyze whether and to what extent these copyright exceptions, designed for the ‘analogue’ world and for the traditional ‘face-to-face’ education could be also applied in the digital world and in the ‘e-education’. The analysis will not be restricted only to exceptions and limitations specifically designed for education purposes but also others that they can be used in this regard, such as the quotation exception and the exception in favour of libraries. Most importantly though the three-step-test will be scrutinized in order to decide whether the limitation for ‘e-education’ purposes could successfully pass this test. Basis for this analysis will be the international and the community legal framework, and some selected national laws. Exploring the issue of the relevant exemptions and limitations mention will be made to the technological protection measures that are applied to works. Finally, the question of contractual overridability will be explored, i.e. the intersection between contractual agreements between the rightholders and the users and the teaching exception.

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