Freelancer using courses in portfolio created for and copyrighted by clients considered Fair Use?

After years of ignoring this question, I need to get clarification. I am a freelance/consulting ID and have samples of WBTs created for clients that contain boilerplate disclaimers regarding copyright, and distribution prohibitions. I use these as work samples as part of my portfolio. I do not post them on publicly accessible sites. I provide links to an S3 site only to hiring managers to view, and only by request.  They cannot download any content, only view it.  In each case, I personally developed the entire course content including the template and used approved client graphics.  I use these for the purpose of gaining new project assignments by illustrating my command of the authoring tools, writing skills and creative approach to learning principles. The content contains no trade secrets or commercially valuable information, simply an individual instructional lesson of a larger internal process intended internally facing client audiences.  Is this use as a work sample considered Fair Use of the content?

8 Replies
Guido Roessling

I am by no means a law expert, let alone for US laws (I live in Germany, where laws differ from yours). As far as I understand your situation, you use actual - unmodified - content created under a contract for a client. This would probably not be considered to be "for teaching or research purpose" (which would have been one way to resolve this). Also, your use is probably not "transformative" (unchanged, not set in a different context or media).

I think that to be on the safe side, it would be best to request your clients to grant you the right to display (selected) parts of the content generated for them in the context you describe. As long as this does not concern "critical information", I would hope that many clients would be willing to grant you this right with the given restrictions (illustrating your command of the tool and "past work"). Otherwise, this seems like it could be problematic.

Of course, this is only my interpretation of what I have just read about the Fair Use in the US, coming from a foreigner living in a different continent ;-). Fellow US users of Storyline, please chip in and correct me where I am wrong! 

Brett Rockwood

I'm not a lawyer but I'd avoid using them. It would be easiest to just contact your clients and ask for permission. If they agree you're all set and if they don't then you know the answer to whether or not it's OK.

I would suggest you create a few examples of your own specifically for your portfolio. You can tailor it exactly as you'd like to show off your skills. It's a far safer and better targeted way to get what you want.

David Glow

Do not use without client permission. One method to make a client more comfortable with granting permission is to break out a small portion as a snippet, so reviewers only get a peek, but cannot fully use content.


my preferred method is to use the coded logic and replace screens so it shows the dev skill, but is detached from the client.  For example, I did a lending sim for income using a W2.  I created a fake company and mocked up an app so it was not the clients app, but captured info (name, income, deductions, etc...).  Even values should be changed... But any reviewer would think this was an actual sim for the actual client although all original client references, UI, values... Are removed.