Copyright Issues for Online Courses

Here are three main takeaways for proper use of copyright protected material in online courses.

I. Follow the Law on Copyrighted Media

Please note copying or changing the original format (e.g., VHS to DVD) of copyrighted material is a violation of the U.S. Copyright Law and Digital Millennium Copyright Act. I recommend you review your institutions policies (e.g., Faculty Manual) on the use of copyrighted material in the classroom. Here are some recommendations to properly show copyright protected videos to students.

  1. Only show a small segment of a privately owned video in your class to illustrate a lesson, as part of the Fair Use laws (Title 17, Section 107, U. S. Code, Copyright.gov).  Avoid showing an entire video of copyrighted material, as this constitutes as a public performance of it and is prohibited by law. Use a Fair Use checklist to determine the purpose, nature, amount, and effect of the media use for educational purposes.
  2. Short-term, one time use– Place your videos on course reserves for checkout by students in the library for one semester only to meet spontaneous use requirements. Fill out the necessary paperwork with the library at the circulation desk for course reserves. If a student does not have a VHS or DVD player, they can check out one on a TV cart to take to a study room in the library for viewing. Meanwhile, place a request order with the purchasing librarian for the library reserves. See solution # 4.

  3. Find it online– Search the library’s video databases to see if the same content is available.

4. Purchase institution-wide license of media object– There is an option for the library to purchase DVD formats to include in their collection. Contact your library liaison and the purchasing agent for the library to learn more about this option.

II. Proper Use of Copyrighted Articles

Articles in the library databases are very easy to share with others. When you share an article from one of the library’s databases, look for the shortened URL for the article. It is called the permalink, stable URL, or persistent URL – different databases use slightly different terminology, but all three versions are the same thing – a shorter URL that acts as an anchor for the article that you’re interested in. Databases normally place the permalinks, stable URLs, or persistent URLs in the Tools section of the article record. This URL doesn’t work by itself or anyone could access it. Your institution’s EZ Proxy service authenticates school users and allows them to access content that your school licenses.

Why do I need to do this for my course? Posting copyright protected articles directly in your online courses constitutes a copyright infringement. Copies of written works are permissible if they are made for personal use only and the copy will not be shared or distributed to a group without the documented permission of the copyright owner. As an instructor, you’re encouraged to direct your students to the original source of the work to avoid copyright infringement.

III. Cite Your Sources

Cite your sources in your online course and material according to the appropriate style guides (i.e., APA, MLA, & Chicago Manual). This sets a good example for students and covers your general use of the copyrighted material (Quality Matters™ Rubric Standards, 2014). Also, cite any media sources (e.g., images, sound, video clips) reused in your video lectures and/or PowerPoint presentations.

See the US Copyright website for specific information.