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Copyright in Online Teaching

Blackboard

The use of course management systems such as Blackboard by instructors to make digitized course-related material available to students should be considered an extension of the physical classroom, thereby subject to the same fair use copyright laws that have governed traditional face-to-face course instruction. Until recently, the 1976 Agreement on Guidelines for Classroom Copying of Books and Periodicals had been considered the benchmark for applying fair use to classroom instruction. However, a recent fair use court ruling has concluded that these guidelines are not legally binding and are not an appropriate standard for determining what does and does not qualify as a fair use. A careful fair use analysis must be applied whenever any copyrighted content is placed on Blackboard. The Association of Research Libraries, in its 2012 Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, presents the following set of limitations to be considered when using copyrighted works on digital networks to further instructional purposes. These limitations are based upon an interpretation of fair use. They are not to be considered legally binding; rather, they should be used in informing responsible decisions regarding the digitizing and dissemination of copyrighted materials.

  • Closer scrutiny should be applied to uses of content created and marketed primarily for use in courses such as the one at issue (e.g., a textbook, workbook, or anthology designed for the course). Use of more than a brief excerpt from such works on digital networks is unlikely to be transformative and therefore unlikely to be a fair use.
  • The availability of materials should be coextensive with the duration of the course or other time-limited use (e.g., a research project) for which they have been made available at an instructor's discretion.
  • Only eligible students and other qualified persons (e.g., professors' graduate assistants) should have access to materials.
  • Materials should be made available only when and only to the extent that, there is a clear articulable nexus between the instructor's pedagogical purpose and the kind and amount of content involved.
  • When appropriate, the number of students with simultaneous access to online materials may be limited.
  • Students should also be given information about their rights and responsibilities regarding their own use of course materials.
  • Full attribution, in a form satisfactory to scholars in the field, should be provided for each work included or excerpted.

Articles & Book Chapters

Book chapters, journal articles, and excerpts from other published materials, whether in print or online, may be disseminated to students via learning management systems such as Blackboard without permission from publishers or rightsholders under certain conditions specified within U.S. copyright law. Below are best practices to assist in determining whether any proposed use of such material would meet these conditions.

Best Practices:

  1. Apply fair use guidelines when appropriate.
  2. To comply with fair use, limit the reproduction and dissemination of copyrighted works to one chapter of a book, or one article from an issue of a periodical. When excerpting, limit total amount to no more than 10% - 15% of the entire work.
  3. Whenever possible, provide links to electronically available journals and books from the library's databases - even if print format is available.
  4. Utilize interlibrary loan services when material is not available.
  5. Always include proper citation/attribution when posting copyrighted material in online learning environments.
  6. Ensure students are aware of their responsibilities when engaging with copyrighted material.
  7. Seek permission from rightsholders when necessary.
  8. Ask a librarian for suggested alternatives for material that is not available.

Images

Incorporating images (photographs, illustrations, figures, charts, and graphs), can enhance instruction and contribute to student learning. Consider the following when using images in the course of online instruction.

Best Practices:

  1. Use images only within the context of educational purposes to illustrate a concept or argument. Avoid use for entertainment purposes.
  2. Consider using images that are copyright free or licensed for re-use (Creative Commons).
  3. Link to images whenever possible.
  4. Consider creating your own images.
  5. Always include proper citation/attribution when posting in any electronic format.
  6. Ensure students are aware of their responsibilities when engaging with content.
  7. Seek permission from rightsholders when necessary.

Learn more about using images for teaching here.

Audio & Music

The use of sound recordings (music, spoken word) can enhance a lesson or contribute to student learning. Consider the following when using audio media in the course of online instruction.

Best Practices:

  1. Use relatively brief excerpts (only what is necessary) of commercial recordings or other recordings of copyrighted material.
  2. Use audio to support a lesson or curriculum (explication, illustration, comparison) rather than for entertainment purposes
  3. Treat printed music and lyrics as textual sources, using no more than 10% - 15% of the entire work.
  4. Always include proper citation/attribution when posting copyrighted material in online environments.
  5. Consider using royalty-free or copyright-free recordings.
  6. Ensure students are aware of their responsibilities when engaging with copyrighted material.
  7. See permission from rightsholders when necessary.

Learn more about using sound recordings here.

Films

Current technology has enabled the incorporation of motion media into multimedia projects with relative ease. Yet, the various formats available (video, DVD, streaming media) all remain subject to copyright law and any use must be evaluated in the same manner as other media. Permission is required for any use that does not fall within fair use.

Best Practices:

  1. Whenever possible, selects film from the library's collection of streaming film databases. These films allow multiple simultaneous users and can be linked to from Blackboard.
  2. Consider choosing films that are copyright free or in the public domain.
  3. Even if you have lawfully-obtained video or DVD, copyright law prohibits the reformatting of DVDs into video files.
  4. Whenever possible, use clips from films to illustrate a concept presented within.
  5. Always include proper citation/attribution when posting copyrighted material in online learning environments.
  6. Ensure students are aware of their responsibilities when engaging with copyrighted material.
  7. Seek permission from rightsholders when necessary. This includes public performance rights and streaming licensing.
  8. Ask a librarian for suggested alternatives for material that is not available.

Learn more about using films here.