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Copyright and Intellectual Property in the Digital Age: Copyright and Teaching

This guide describes the issues surrounding intellectual property, copyright, academic integrity, and plagiarism.

Face-to-Face Teaching

U.S. Copyright Law allows instructors and students to use copyright materials in  "a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction” during face-to-face teaching at nonprofit educational institutions.  This is permitted through Section 110(1).  This allows works to be show or displayed in their entirety (such as music or films).  Make sure that any work displayed in class is a lawfully obtained copy.  


The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) allows for the display of copyrighted materials within an online, distance education program, providing that the program is part of a non-profit, accredited institution, that entire works are not used, that what is displayed does not replace materials students would normally be required to purchase, and that materials are accessible only to students enrolled in that class.  The audiovisual materials and dramatic musical works must also be "reasonable and limited" portions.  

The TEACH Act also only covers works that would be displayed as part of "mediated instructional activities."  This means works that the instructor would normally display/perform during class time and not materials that students would be expected to view on their own time outside of class. 

Copyright and Course Websites

Posting materials to learning management system (LMS) course websites often involves legal questions about copyright.  Copyrighted or licensed materials posted to Canvas should adhere to copyright regulations and best practices and be related to course objectives.  Uploading portions of material may meet fair use guidelines.  If possible, link out to legally obtained or licensed copies of materials rather than uploading content directly to your course website and limit access to students enrolled for that course during that semester.  

Does fair use automatically apply to all educational uses and allow me to post material on my course site? 

Not automatically.  Educational purposes do weigh in favor of fair use, but may be impacted by other factors.  There is no fixed percentage for determining fair use.  However, limited portions (excerpts, chapters, articles) improve the case for fair use.  Reassess fair use on a case-by-case basis.  

Can I post library materials on my course sites?  

It depends.  In addition to copyright, the library's electronic resources are often subject to licensing agreements or other contractual terms.  Best practice is to link to those licensed items rather than providing a copy on your course site.  

Again it depends.  Check if the content is in the public domain, has a creative commons license, or needs permission.  It can sometimes be difficult to determine the copyright status of content posted on the web.  It is best to link to legitimate, legal copies of materials on the web.  

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