Are Screen Captures Copyrighted?

Copyright symbolImage via Wikipedia

One of my students asked me a copyright question about screen captures recently that I couldn’t answer.

After teaching them about how to make a screen capture and suggesting that this would be a great thing to use when creating tutorials. An educator could take screen shots of software while progressing through the software and then write accompanying instructions.

Here’s the question “Aren’t those screen captures copyrighted?” I didn’t know the answer.

I would imagine that under fair-use guidelines, an educator could include screen captures that are used in the classroom.

The question lies in whether or not such a tutorial could be posted on the web for free distribution. At another level, what about selling the tutorial to others? Do you need to pay a copyright royalty to Microsoft if you use screen captures of Microsoft Word in a tutorial book?

What do you think?

What’s YOUR opinion?
Leave a comment and keep the discussion going.

4 thoughts on “Are Screen Captures Copyrighted?

  1. This falls under fair use for educators, provided the copying is not extensive, but is not allowed under copyright in the USA.

    “The 1976 Copyright Act generally gives the owner of copyright the exclusive right to reproduce the copyrighted work, to prepare derivative works, to distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work, to perform the copyrighted work publicly, or to display the copyrighted work publicly. “

  2. Here is a note from our media director:
    I think the sticky part would be using the screen shots to create a derivative work. Permission is needed to make a derivative work–like a manual or how-to for web distribution.

    The number and amount of screen shots should probably be evaluated with the fair use criteria in mind.

    I would caution about broad distribution beyond the classroom instruction with specific students.

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