Legal Issues with Digital Teaching

May I include an illustration from a book in my slide presentation and make it available to my students via Moodle, for example?



In the book “Mobile Learning” there is a half-page illustration on page 113 that explains the so-called PLS model. Professor Musterfrau would like to include this in her presentation slides to show it in the lecture and use it to explain central determinants of the intention to use mobile learning. Afterwards, she would like to make the slides available to her students for download on the Learning platform Moodle .


Professor Musterfrau is allowed to incorporate the illustration into her slides and make them available to her students via Moodle, invoking §60a UrhG, as the use clearly fulfils a didactic purpose and serves to illustrate the subject matter.

Likewise, Professor Musterfrau could invoke the right of citation. In any case, a correct reference to the source is necessary.

Legal Considerations

Use within the Framework of the Right of Citation

Within the framework of the Quotation right § 51 UrhG , it is possible to include copyrighted works or parts of a work (this also includes illustrations, for example) in your own work (e.g., presentation slides). For your own work, in turn, you may determine when, how, where and under what conditions it is reproduced, distributed or published.

Pay attention to the purpose of the citation, the scope of the citation and the source

A prerequisite for use under the right of quotation is that there is a corresponding purpose for quotation and that the extent of quotation is appropriate. For example, the use of illustrations or pictures to “spruce up” one's own work is not an appropriate citation purpose.
A purpose of citation is always given if the citation underlines or explains the concept of one's own presentation within the framework of the scientific discussion of a topic or if one deals with the citation within one's own explanations.

Furthermore, when quoting, care must be taken to ensure that the sources are correctly cited.

Use for Illustration of Teaching or Instruction (Section 60a UrhG)

In addition to the right of citation, teachers can also invoke the § 60a Copyright Act , which was introduced by the Copyright Act (UrhWissG), which came into force on 1 March 2018. Under this restriction provision of copyright law in favour of education and research, up to 15% of a published work can be made available to students of a course (also digitally) within a restricted access framework. The prerequisite for this is that the use is for the purpose of illustrating teaching or instruction, i.e., the use can be didactically justified.

Section 60a(2) specifically states that, among other things, images may also be used in their entirety for this purpose.

In general,: the extent to which use is permitted depends on the didactic context in each individual case. If the didactic context requires a use of 100%, a use of 100% is permitted. If the didactic context requires a use of 40%, a use of 40% is permitted.

Good to Know!

The mere repainting of illustrations, for example, does not make them one's own work because the essential message of the original image is taken over. Rather, there is a risk of plagiarism. If you repaint an illustration from a work and add your own additions, you must also indicate the source of the original work (e.g., with the note “adapted from”).

Even if the illustration is from one's own published work, the correct citation is necessary.

What alternatives are there if no use is possible within the framework of Section 60a UrhG or the right of citation?

Check whether a similar illustration is made available as Open Educational Resources on the Internet

Open Educational Resources (OER) are usually made available on the internet under a free Creative Commons licence (CC) . CC licences allow fundamental use in terms of reproduction, redistribution and making available to the public. It is important to note the conditions under which the author grants these rights of use (for example, whether editing is permitted), and the rules on correct source citation for a CC-licensed work.

Not all CC licences allow the use of a work free of charge (see details in the section “Securing free use” on the CC licences page ). It is necessary to read the licence conditions before use.

Check, e.g., in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), whether the work containing the illustration is made available as a freely available open access publication under a CC licence.

Legally Verified

The content of this page has been reviewed by Jan Hansen, Ass. jur.