From leadership models to team questionnaires, from NLP to Emotional Intelligence, many of the tools that trainers use have been borrowed, found and even ‘tweaked’ for inclusion in training programs.
The UK Copyright service states:
“Before you can legally sell, publish or distribute someone else’s copyright work, you must obtain the permission of the copyright owner. This rule applies even if you are only using extracts or samples from the work. Although national laws may allow some limited use without permission under the terms of fair use or fair dealing, these are very limited and quite specific exceptions. If you are in any doubt whatsoever, you should always get the permission of the copyright owner. If you are found guilty of copyright infringement or plagiarism you could face legal charges, fines, or in extreme cases even imprisonment.” Including materials and questionnaires in your delegate notes without permission could constitute selling on.
Given the propensity for litigation these days, and the extra care organisations are taking to avoid it, taking the time and effort to check that the materials you are using are being used with permission is extremely important.
Many academics will be happy for you to use their models as long as you accredit the source. Publications, likewise, may be happy for you to use extracts of their work, again given the right accreditation. Companies such as Honey and Mumford, Thomas DISC International or Belbin® may be happy for you to refer to their models and outcomes (as it generates business for them too), but using the actual tools without permission could land you in court.
What about ‘concepts’?Protecting a concept is a challenge that keeps Intellectual Property lawyers occupied around the world. But where a concept is a clear original thought and the owner can prove the date and content of the concept, any unauthorized use is a breach of copyright. Verifiable proof can be as simple as keeping supporting evidence or as watertight as registering the copyright with the UK Copyright Service.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), for example, was created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder. There are thousands of trainers around the world using it without a licence. In a case in 1999, a US court ruled that Richard Bandler did not own exclusive rights to the intellectual property involved in NLP, but there are still complex issues surrounding who owns what with regards to NLP that will probably take many years to resolve.
Emotional intelligence (EI) is a subject developed by Daniel Goleman, yet this is being used and is accepted as a useful method for developing individuals. The difficulty with subjects such as NLP and EI is that they have been ‘contrived’, whether from research or as a compilation of concepts and ideas, and therefore cannot be said to be in the public domain and ‘copyright free’.
What about adapting materials?If you take copyright materials and adapt them to your own uses without the permission of the original copyright holder, then it is plagiarism which is still an infringement of copyright.
UK Government Copyright: http://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p13_permission
Thanks for help with editing this article go to Marie-Claire Hoare of J H Law Solicitors