The purpose of this page is to help ease the transition to teaching online due to COVID-19. Below are resources to help faculty become familiar with copyright concerns that may arise during this rapidly evolving situation, as well as alternatives to copyrighted works that can be freely used in class.
The resources below are being frequently updated. Please check this page regularly for new information.
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Fair use is one major limitation on a copyright holder's exclusive rights to a published work. Detailed in Title 17, Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law, fair use recognizes that certain reproductions of copyright-protected works do not require permissions from copyright holders. Under this section fair use is determined by four factors:
Note: Not all uses in an academic context are automatically considered fair use.
Fair use is one of the most important exemptions to copyright protections for educational settings, allowing many uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching and research. The complexity of fair use and its importance in academia makes it imperative that every member of the scholarly community understands how to make judgments concerning fair use.
The Technology Education and Copyright Harmonization Act is an expansion of U.S. Copyright Law that provides allowances for online/distance education programs. Key points include:
If it was legal to show slide images in class, it is likely legal to show them to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos. The issue is usually less offline versus online, than a restricted versus an unrestricted audience. As long as your new course video is being shared through course websites limited to the same enrolled students, the legal issues are fairly similar. It is also a good idea to cite any images you use, regardless of their copyright status.
Many instructors routinely post a copy of their slides as a file for students to access after in-person course meetings, which also likely doesn't present any new issues after online course meetings.
In-lecture use of audio or video
Here, the differences between online and in-person teaching can be a bit more complex. Playing audio or video from physical media during an in-person class session is 100% legal under a provision of copyright law called the “Classroom Use Exemption.” However, that exemption doesn’t cover playing the same media online. If you can limit audio and video use for your course to relatively brief clips, you may be able to include those in lecture recordings or live-casts under the copyright provision called fair use. For media use longer than brief clips, you may need to have students independently access the content outside of your lecture videos.
For more in-depth analysis, see The Copyright Implications of Teaching with Videos.
Sharing lecture recordings
The TEACH Act requires that only enrolled students can have access to online course materials. When you are sharing recordings of your lectures, be sure to make them accessible only to your students, such as through the university's Blackboard system. If you choose to upload videos to YouTube, set them to be private or unlisted. However, be aware that videos posted on YouTube may encounter some automated copyright enforcement, such as a takedown notice, or disabling of included audio or video content. These automated enforcement tools are often--incorrect--when they flag audio, video, or images included in instructional videos; they fail to account for fair use.
This content was adapted from a guide by the University of Minnesota Libraries licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.