Can I use/refer to newspaper headlines in my open-licensed course?

Kia ora, namaste, bula all

1st post to OERu community so a little unsure as to whether I should have created a topic or posted within an existing topic.

I have a colleague who’s building a course which she’d like to license CC BY SA.
She’s inserted screenshots and hyperlinks to (Covid-19) headlines from major newspapers (definitely copyrighted).

Can she simply state in the license that except where copyrighted, the overall course is openly licensed, or does she have to contact all those media organizations to ask for permission?

How much of copyright fair use comes across to open licensing?

Look forward to comments.


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Please note that I am not a copyright lawyer - but I can share some general principles. If you are uncertain about your particlar use case, I would recommend that you obtain legal advice from a professional.

Not a problem - Creating a new topic is fine. I’ve added the OERu category to your topic.

Taking screenshots of newspaper pages with their headlines is protected by copyright, and therefore your would require permissions from the copyright holder for your particular use case.

There are multiple issues to consider:

  1. Creative Commons licenses do not remove copyright. It is a license which provides specified permissions under the provisions of copyright - so it is incorrect to say “except where copyrighted” because the copyright of a CC License is owned by the copyright holder.
  2. In certain circumstances, it would be possible to incorporate images of “all rights reserved” copyrighted works or images licensed with incompatible licenses (eg CC-BY-NC or CC-BY-NC-SA when licensing the work under CC-BY-SA) as long as the overall work is a “collection” and not a derivative remix. So for example, you could include an Unsplash photograph which is technically a custom copyright license within a CC-BY-SA work, as long as the image is clearly identified as a discrete object in the collection so that users are aware that this creative work is not covered by the CC-BY-SA license of your course.
  3. Please note that the custom Unsplash license gives you permission to include the object in your course, but it does not provide permissions re-license the “original” work.
  4. In the case of a screenshot of a copyrighted work (eg Newspaper article, proprietary software screen) you require permissions from the copyright holder to use a digital copy of the work in your work.

The provisions of fair use in the United States or fair dealing in Commonwealth Countries are determined by the National Copyright Act where the works are used. I’m not an expert on the Indian Copyright Act, so you will need to check what provisions are considered as exceptions under fair dealing. The challenge with websites hosting educational materials is that you can’t necessarily determine whether the site is being used for educational purposes by all users assuming that some exceptions for educational purposes are defined in your copyright act.

The provisions of fair use apply equally to all rights reserved publications as they do in the case of openly licensed works because open licensing operates within the provisions of copyright. Open licensing does not remove copyright.

The short answer: You would be able to quote newspaper headlines with proper attribution under the provisions of fair dealing, however screenshots of newspaper articles would not generally be considered fair dealing because you are making a digital copy of a copyrighted work.

Hope this feedback helps.


Actually, when you remix the works you must notice the copyright provisions or licenses of those resources. You need to follow the compatibility chart if you remixed the CC licensed works. If they are copyrighted, then permission should be there depending on the copyright provisions under which the works have been released.

Copyrght only applies to Substantial Parts of a work. A headline - is hardly substantial. There should be no copyright issue copying headlines.

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That’s a good point. I would crop the image to only display the headline rather than a full screen copy of the page to avoid copying images and any trademarks in screen advertisements.

Yes when remixing different CC licenses the creator must check for license remix compatibility. See for example:

However this example is not a remix scenario in my opinion.