Legal Issues - Copyrighted Material? (Germany)

I have a question about creating courses and copyrighted material.

I’m a teacher who has used Memrise for personal goals, but I have thought about using it for my students. I thought about creating courses for them using the new vocabulary. Of course it would be most beneficial to use the vocabulary lists from the school book - but is that legal?

US Fair Use law seems to think it is and a former colleague told me that lists of words don’t count, but Germany has rather harsh laws regarding textbooks and I don’t want to spend hours creating courses and then facing criminal charges for it.

Does anyone have any experience regarding this topic?

Hallo lapiccolavolpina,

please ask the German publisher for permission!

Many publishing houses will allow it for non-profit courses.

[Ich habe mehrmals einen deutschen Verlag gemailt. Leider bekam ich keine Antwort. Dann habe ich den Verlag einfach angerufen. Die Rechtsabteilung hat es dann erlaubt. Unbedingt schriftlich bestätigen lassen!]

You have to keep in mind that the legal definition of what is a non-profit enterprise is very strict, and unless you are legally registered with the government as a non-profit, then you are not technically a non-profit, even if profit is not your motive for creating the course.

In addition, although publishers may allow use of their material for non-profit courses, memrise is a profit-seeking business. Thus, although the course creator receives no profit, nothing made available to the public on memrise can legally be considered a non-profit course.

And as an aside, in the beginning, memrise did tell creators that they planned to allow them to charge users for the courses they created, and share in any revenue earned from them. At some point, memrise removed any mention of those plans from the site.


Just my two cents: if the vocabulary lists are bilingual, then you probably shouldn’t use them as they are. If it is just a glossary of the key words that come up in the chapter, it should be okay, especially if you name the book you use as a source in either the course’s or the level’s name.

But if you have any doubts whatsoever, the best thing to do is to ask permission from the publisher. That way you have some paper trail backing up that you did all to ensure you are not hurting anybody, and that’s always good to have.

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Thanks for the replies. I have written to the publisher and I’m awaiting answers.

I’d modify bits of it anyway, but I want to be safe.

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