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Copyright in Online Teaching

Determing Fair Use

Fair use (Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976) balances the rights of copyright holders with the needs of scholars to promote teaching, research and the free exchange of ideas. Fair use defines particular circumstances in which it is permissible to use copyrighted material free from permissions and royalties under specified conditions detailed in the four factors of fair use. All of these factors should be considered when evaluating each use of a copyrighted work. Fair use is not a means by which to circumvent copyright law, but a legal assertion of use which will need to be justified through the careful application of these conditions. These factors must be evaluated to determine whether most of them weigh in favor of or against fair use.

The following tools and resources will provide further assistance in determining fair use.

For more information about how fair use can be an important factor in teaching online, see the below resources for guidance.

Electronic Resources

Consider using the wealth of online material available from the Bentley Library.‚Äč

Interlibrary Loan

The Bentley University Library provides interlibrary loan borrowing services to current students, staff and faculty of Bentley University to support the teaching, research and service missions of the University by providing access to material not present in the Library’s collections. Bentley University Library also provides interlibrary loan lending services to other libraries. Materials may be copied and distributed through interlibrary loan when they are:

  • in the public domain; or
  • used with permission from the copyright holder; or
  • used under the provisions of a contract or license agreement, noting that agreements may differ from, and often take precedence over, what is allowed under copyright law; or
  • used under the provisions of Library Copying, U.S. Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 108 or, to the extent possible for University-related instructional or scholarly purposes, under Fair Use, 17 U.S.C. Section 107, as determined using a case-by-case four-factor analysis.

Visit Bentley Library's Interlibrary Loan page to learn more.

TEACH Act

The TEACH Act (Section 110(2)) of the U.S. copyright law) allows educators to perform or display copyrighted works in distance education environments, albeit under specified conditions. 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 the TEACH Act can be difficult because of its complexity and the many detailed requirements for instructors, technologists, and institutions.

Benefits of the TEACH Act

The TEACH Act allows instructors to do the following things, again, under specified conditions:

  • 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. Consult this checklist for details. Below is a list of the primary 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 other 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. As opportunities for applying the TEACH Act are limited in scope, keep in mind that you may also consider applying fair use when using copyrighted works in distance education settings.

Course Reserves

Bentley University Library supports instruction at Bentley University through the availability of course reserves and other collection access services. The primary function of these services is to ensure that students and teachers have timely and equitable access to course-related library resources.

Copyrighted materials made available via course reserve, either in print in the library or digitized on Blackboard, are for use in class, related course study outside of class, and course research. The use of copyrighted materials in all formats, including the creation, online delivery, and use of digital copies of copyrighted materials submitted for course reserve, must be in compliance with U.S. copyright law and this policy.

Materials may be copied and made available for course reserves when they are:

  • in the public domain; or
  • used with permission from the copyright holder; or
  • used under the provisions of a contract or license agreement, noting that agreements may differ from, and often take precedence over, what is allowed under copyright law; or
  • used under the provision of Fair Use Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. Section 107, as determined using a case-by-case four-factor analysis.

Learn more about Course Reserves.