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Copyright

Introduction

A lot of instructors worry about copyright issues that arise in the course of teaching - showing films, sharing readings, and a host of other issues. Many other instructors have not thought much about these issues. Our hope is that the materials on this site will calm the concerns of instructors who are worried or concerned about copyright - and also raise the awareness of instructors who are coming to the issues for the first time.

A lot of things that teachers or instructors may want to do are already 100% A-OK to do! Learn about in-class display, linking to readings, and use of open resources.  some things teachers or instructors may want to do will require a little more thought. Learn about making copies for students, posting files online for students, and using your own personal streaming subscriptions in the classroom.

Sharing Course Materials With Students

A lot of instructors share course materials with students online, via Blackboard or other course websites. But even the most online-oriented instructor may find themselves handing out paper copies in class from time to time. Most of the issues involved are actually pretty similar, whether you are working with online copies or in-person copies.

Instructor Information on Sharing Student Works

Student works that are part of course assignments at  UMBC are unquestionably owned by the students who create them. This is true both as a general matter of law and of University policy.

Instructors can require students to share works in certain ways - this is best done by making all expectations for sharing clear in the course syllabus. A student who prefers not to share her work in that way can discuss alternate options with the instructor early on, or opt out of the course.

However, where instructors do not make sharing expectations clear up front, the instructor does not have the right to make sharing decisions unilaterally. It is always a good idea for instructors to model the respect for authors and creators that they expect from their students.

In-class display is usually okay!

Most of the time, showing things to students in class at UMBC is totally okay so long as the people present are all registered students and it's shown for the purpose of instruction - there is a specific provision in the law that allows teachers to display copyrightable materials for students, without limitation, in non-profit, face-to-face, classroom settings for instruction. (If not for this exception, showing things in a classroom would be a public display that might require payment and/or permission.)

In-class performances or display are usually okay!

Most of the time, showing things to students in class, or performing things with or for students in class at UMBC is totally okay - there is a specific provision in the law that allows teachers to perform or display things, without limitation, in non-profit, face-to-face, classroom settings for instruction. (If not for this exception, classroom activities could be public performances or displays that might require payment and/or permission.)

Sharing Course Materials--Avoid Making Copies

Copyright issues with course materials usually arise because you're -making copies-. So, make life easy on yourself and your students by not making copies.

How can you share course materials without making copies?

  • If the readings are publicly available online, -link- to them, or even just share the website address on paper or via email.
  • If the readings are available online via a University subscription, link to them. Note that the URL in your browser bar does not work for linking to library subscription databases. For instructions on linking to library subscription databases, see Linking to Library Subscription Content.
  • Have students buy a book that already contains the relevant readings.
  • Put books or journal issues containing the readings on reserve (physically) in the Libraries
  • Share citations for the readings with the students 
    Please note, students may have trouble finding readings from citations; a subject specialist librarian may be able to come to your class to help students develop these skills.

Other Options

If you have to make copies to share course materials with your students, you will have to think about whether such copies are already permitted by law, or whether you will need permission from (and usually payment to) the copyright holder.

Fair Use

Fair use is a provision in the law that allows some copying without permission or payment. It is undoubtedly sometimes legal to make fair use copies of materials for students in a non-profit instructional environment - the text of the relevant statute mentions "multiple copies for classroom use." But is also undoubtedly true that not all non-profit instructional copies are fair uses.

At the UMBC, instructors are trusted to make their own reasonable and informed choices about fair use. Which requires knowing something about how Fair use works. You can learn more elsewhere in this Libguide.

Permissions

Sometimes, there is no way to get students to a reading without making copies, and fair use doesn't seem to apply to the copying. Then, you may need permission to make the copies. (Or you may choose to find alternative course materials). There is usually a fee involved for the students.

Linking to Library Subscriptions Content

When you copy and paste the URL to materials the library subscribes to, the URL displayed in your browser's address bar will not work. This is because your students need to login in using their UMBC ID to access subscription materials and also because databases commonly use temporary URLs that do not point to the intended resources after your session has ended. When linking to library subscription content, you have to use a persistent link that takes the student through UMBC single-sign on. 

Persistent URL Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I use persistent links?

You can copy and paste them into Blackboard, into an email message, or into an online syllabus.

Why can't I just copy the URL in my browser's address bar?

In most databases, the address in your browser bar is dynamically-generate, meaning the address only exists during the current period of your search. The browser bar URL will no longer link to the article once you leave the database. Instead, you need the persistent link address provided by the database.

How do I find the persistent links to articles?

Once you find a specific item, look for a chainlink icon or description that identifies a persistent link. Some databases use terms such as Permalink, Document URL, Bookmark Link, Title URL, etc.   In some databases, the easiest way to find this link is to use the 'Cite' function.Then copy and paste the URL. Check the beginning of the URL. If you have trouble creating links to a specific article, please feel free to contact your library liaison for assistance.

How do I find the persistent links to an entire database?
Use the Library's A-Z Database list to find your database. Click on the chainlink icon to the right of the database title. Then copy and paste the URL. 

Will persistent links work off-campus?

Yes, persistent links work off-camps so long as the student, staff, or faculty member is connected to UMBC's single-sign on with an internet connection. 

Why would I use a persistent link rather than uploading an article on Blackboard?

The library has paid for a subscription to full-text content that that includes copyright permission if you link to the content in those databases rather than simply post the text. Downloading, storing, and distributing copyrighted material online (via Blackboard, email, or syllabus) is NOT covered by the library subscription, and you need permission from the publisher to do this. The use of the persistent URL to link to database content does not require permission.

If You have to Make Copies

Fair Use

Fair use is a provision in the law that allows some copying without permission or payment. It is undoubtedly sometimes legal to make fair use copies of a portion of a work for students in a non-profit instructional environment - the text of the relevant statute mentions "multiple copies for classroom use." But is also undoubtedly true that not all non-profit instructional copies are fair uses.

Permissions

Sometimes, there is no way to get students to a reading without making copies, and fair use doesn't seem to apply to the copying. Then, you may need permission to make the copies. (Or you may choose to find alternative course materials.

There is usually a fee involved for the students.

Using Images in Teaching

Using Images in Teaching (online and otherwise)

Images can be powerful teaching tools, as illustrations to in-class lectures, or for studying concepts outside of the classroom.

In-class display is usually okay!

Most of the time, showing things to students in class okay - there is a specific provision in the law, the classroom use exception, that allows teachers to display copyrighted materials for registered students for instruction in non-profit, face-to-face classrooms. If people who aren't registered for the class will be present,  you need to think about fair use, and possibly obtain permissions (possibly involving a fee).

It's not a flexible exception, like fair use - it only applies to teachers, and only in specific situations. But it also is not at all uncertain - you don't have to guess at market harm issues, or how much is an appropriately small amount.

Examples:

  • Holding up illustrations from a book, or passing books, prints, maps, or other hard-copy images around a classroom
  • Using a traditional overhead projector, slide projector, or a document projector to display images

Note: online and distance classes are not covered by the classroom use exception - it only applies when students and teachers are physically present in the same space. You may well be able to display things for your students, but you'll have to think about it in terms of fair use.

Instructional/educational display outside of the classroom

Sometimes uses that feel very similar to the user are treated differently by the law - for example, showing an image in a non-profit face-to-face classroom may be permitted by the the classroom use exception, but showing the same image, in a very similar instructional setting that is not technically a class is not so clearly allowed. So display of images in online instruction, at conferences, in school meetings, etc - may be allowed, but you have to think about fair use.

Copying or scanning images for instructional use

The the classroom use exception doesn't cover making copies at all. It says you can show a picture from a book, but it does not say that you can scan the picture out of the book in order to put it in a presentation file that you project from your computer. You may be able to copy the pictures from the book in order to use them in class, but if so, it will be because of fair use - which is less clear than the the classroom use exception

Fair use almost certainly covers some copying of images for instruction, especially in the non-profit context. It's also likely that not all image copying, even in non-profit instructional contexts, falls under fair use. Courts haven't done much to interpret how fair use might apply to instructional use of images, but they have allowed fair use copying of images in other contexts - sometimes even commercial ones - especially when accompanied by criticism or commentary. If making the copies is a legitimate fair use, then subsequently showing them in class is probably permitted under the the classroom use exception. However, the the classroom use exception does not apply to copies that are not legitimately obtained.

Posting images online for student use

Sharing images online with students, whether embedded in a presentation file (if you distribute Powerpoint files, for example), or as stand-alone images in a course website, is also usually a question of fair use.

Additional resources on academic image use

The Visual Resources Association has produced a very useful "Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study." The statement articulates the organization's understanding of fair use principles, but it's not legal advice. It's a bit longer than this website, but very much worth the read for anyone whose teaching is image-heavy. It is also of great value for anyone working with images as the subject of their research, or who wants to include images in published scholarly materials.

The College Art Association has drawn up a "Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts". This has been welcomed by many in the visual arts teaching and research community. It articulates accepted community practices around writing and teaching about art, and goes beyond fair usei to ssues in making new art, and in archival and museum uses.

The Association of Art Museum Directors recently released their "Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Materials and Works of Art by Art Museums," which is a welcome new document in succession to their groundbreaking earlier principled documentation of fair use issues in visual arts.

Using Video or Audio in Your Teaching

Using Video and Audio in Teaching (online and otherwise)

Video and audio are increasingly present in our classrooms, and as out-of-class review, learning, and study materials. In-class performances or display are usually okay!

Most of the time, showing things to students in class, or performing things with or for students in class is totally okay so long as you're showing them to registered students  - there is a specific provision in the law, classroom use exception that allows teachers to perform or display things for instruction, without limitation, in non-profit, face-to-face, classroom settings. Note that If people who aren't registered for the class will be present you need to think about fair use, and possibly obtain permissions or public performance rights (this usually involves paying a fee).

Examples:

  • Singing a song that all the students already know
  • Playing or singing from sheet music (legitimate copies (fair use/purchased/rented) only)
  • Watching a video (in whole or in part) from a DVD or VHS tape
  • Listening to music from a CD, tape, or record

The classroom use exception is not a flexible exception, like fair use. it only applies to teachers, and only in specific situations. But it also is not at all uncertain - you don't have to guess at market harm issues, or how much is an appropriately small amount.

Note: online and distance classes are not covered by the classroom use exception - it only applies when students and teachers are physically present in the same space. You may be able to display things for your online/distance students, but you'll have to think about it in terms of fair use.

Online media

Sites like YouTube and Vimeo have Terms of Service that say they are for personal use only. Some even specifically say they are for personal, non-commercial use. Subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others also have Terms of Service, almost all of which also limit use to personal and/or non-commercial use. Some have even more specific limitations than that. It's unclear whether the terms of service on a free site, where you never clicked "I Agree", are legally enforceable, but with subscription services, you usually did actively agree to the terms of service at some point.

Is your teaching a personal use? No one really knows. Is your teaching non-commercial use? Also unclear. Most of the folks who run these services have not directly addressed such issues. Certainly it's common practice to play public online content, such as YouTube videos, in many different public settings, though not all such users may be aware that the terms of use present questions about such uses. It's important to note that limitations that you agreed to in a service contract or at the time you purchased digital content are not copyright issues. They are contract issues, and so present risks related to your contractual relationship with the provider of the content, such as account termination. Many instructors do play YouTube videos in class, or play music they downloaded from iTunes. They may or may not be aware of the contract law issues that those uses present.

Media files like MP3s or movie files

Purchased copies of media files often come with their own terms of use, which you usually actively agreed to at the time of purchase, and which also usually say the files are for personal and/or non-commercial use only. Again, whether instructional use is permitted under those terms is an issue of contract law more than copyright.

If the files were not purchased, you may not have to worry about contractual limitations on your use, but do still have to decide the copyright-law question of whether playing questionably-legitimate copies in class is fair useNote: Ripping or otherwise digitizing audio or video from source media is quite likely fair use sometimes. But this proposition is fairly hotly contested by media companies, and some media like DVDs and Blu-Rays present additional legal issues related to "anticircumvention" provisions of the DMCA.

Instructional/educational display outside of the classroom

Outside of the non-profit face-to-face classroom environment, the classroom use exception doesn't apply, so non-classroom use of audio and video such as in online instruction, at conferences, in school meetings, etc - may be allowed, but you have to think about it through the lens of fair use

Ripping or digitizing video or audio for instructional use

The classroom use exception doesn't cover making copies at all; it says you can show a picture from a book, but it does not say that you can scan the picture out of the book in order to put it in a presentation file that you project from your computer. You may be able to copy the pictures from the book in order to use them in class, but if so, it will be because of fair use.

Fair use almost certainly covers some copying of video for instruction, especially in the non-profit context. It's also likely that not all video copying, even in non-profit instructional contexts, falls under fair use. Courts haven't done much to interpret how fair use might apply to instructional use of videos, but they have allowed fair use copying of images in other contexts - sometimes even commercial ones - especially when accompanied by criticism or commentary.

If making the copies is a legitimate fair use, then subsequently showing them in class is probably permitted where the classroom use exception applies, and may be fair use in other circumstances.

Posting videos online for student use

Sharing videos online with students - when you upload copies of the videos yourself - is also usually a question of fair use. Linking to copies of videos online is another option for sharing videos with students, but it's always worth considering whether those videos are themselves legit copies.

Virtual Instruction Exemption (TEACH Act)

The TEACH Act

The TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act, 2002) (Section 110(2)) allows educators to perform or display copyrighted works in distance education environments. If you would like to show a video or display an image during your online class, you may want to consider whether that use is allowable under the TEACH Act.

Implementing TEACH can be difficult because of its complexity and the many detailed requirements for instructors, technologists, and institutions. 

Benefits of the TEACH Act

  • Performances and displays of nearly all types of copyrighted works
  • Transmission of digital materials to students at distant education locations
  • Storage of copyrighted content for brief periods of time, such as that which occurs in the process of transmitting digital content
  • Creating digital versions of print or analog works

Requirements of the TEACH Act

In order to take advantage of these benefits, instructors and institutions must meet certain policy requirements specified by the TEACH Act. Reasonable measures to assure that only enrolled students will have access to materials during the course of instruction must be in place before TEACH exemptions can be made. Below is a list of requirements:

  • The teaching must occur at an accredited, nonprofit educational institution.
  • Only lawfully acquired copies may be used.
  • Use is limited to performances and displays. The TEACH Act does not apply to materials that are for students' independent use and retention, such as textbooks or readings.
  • Use of materials must be within the context of "mediated instructional activities" analogous to the activities of a face-to-face class session.
  • The materials to be used should not include those primarily marketed for the purposes of distance education (i.e. an electronic textbook or a multimedia tutorial).
  • Only those students enrolled in the class should have access to the material.
  • Reasonable efforts must be made to prevent students from distributing the material after viewing it.
  • If a digital version of the work is already available, then an analog copy cannot be converted for educational use.
  • Students must be informed that the materials they access are protected by copyright.
  • The educational institution must have a policy on the use of copyrighted materials and provide informative resources for faculty advising them on their rights.

The requirements for complying with the TEACH Act are numerous and onerous. As opportunities for applying the TEACH Act are limited in scope, keep in mind that you may also consider to fair use when using copyrighted works online and in distance education settings.

TEACH Act Resources