It is a good idea to have permission from the software owner to use images in a course. Keep in mind that the importance of pursuing this depends on the risk. If you are creating something for your friends, I wouldn't bother. If you are creating a course for a large company, I would bother. If your company doen't worry about this, they might still frown on you when a company complains (or sues).
Creating training for Boeing, I regularly reach out to software organizatons to optain permissions (which is readily granted). Companies often ask to see the screenshots before granting permission (they want to know that their software is presented in a possitive light). Another issue to remember is your responsebility to respect the software provider's branding. Check the company's web site to see how they refer to their tool (e.g., to they include the circled r or do they use the superscripted TM). This is something we do on first use in a course, not necessarily every mention of the tool.
It is also important to look closely at the content within your screenshot as well. Most instructional designers know never to include production data, personal information, or information about your customers. We "scrub" screens.
I was always under the impression screen capturing fell under Fair Use. I mean, as long as my screen capturing didn't replicate the functionality and output of the captured software and I'm not claiming the captured product as my own.... Otherwise I'd think all the tutorials on youtube would be violations...
That said I'm not a lawyer and Fair Use is a HUGE grey area.
Any other thoughts?
I'm actually trying to find out about using screenshots of Adobe software. I've done some Premiere Pro tutorials and I'd like to monetize them on YouTube but their conditions state "You can monetize videos showing software user interface only if you have a contract with the publisher or you have paid a licensing fee".
I'm hoping that Adobe's Permissions and trademark guidelines (http://www.adobe.com/misc/permissions.html) would be enough but there's a problem there too. Adobe's conditions state "Your use must contain the entire screenshot. You may not use portions of the screenshots". That's hopelessly restrictive - obviously I want to be able to zoom in and show closeups of the interface. There's a form to apply for special permission (http://www.adobe.com/misc/pdfs/PermissionRequestForm.pdf) but it's not practical (e.g. every single usage must be renewed annually). I can't believe that all those tutorial producers on YouTube are jumping through these hoops to get the right permissions.
So what is everyone doing? Just ignoring the whole permission thing and hoping for the best?