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Syracuse University Libraries

Copyright for Online Instruction: Getting Started

Discover resources that could help you navigate complicated (and important!) copyright issues related to online courses and resources.

Understanding Copyright is Tremendously Important!

Syracuse University’s faculty, students, and staff produce, distribute and share a wide range of works. University members may want to use their own works, or others' works, while pursuing goals for research, teaching, instruction, or scholarship.  For online faculty and instructors, and anyone who instructs online, understanding and adhering to copyright law is crucial to protect yourselves, the University, and your students. As educators, modeling appropriate and legal use of copyrighted materials is critical in helping students (and future educators) to better understand the complex issues surrounding copyright. SU Libraries offers guidance to faculty and instructors on how and when copyrighted materials can be used for instruction. 

Legal disclaimer: All of the information contained here is educational. None of this guide’s information is, or should be considered to be, legal advice. 

Brief Introduction to Online Copyright

Note: This video (source) was embedded, rather than copied, from YouTube. Information on embedding videos into Blackboard can be found on this support page.

Getting Help from SU Libraries

University Copyright Guide: https://copyright.syr.edu/guide/

Syracuse University Libraries are committed to the faculty, students, and staff. If you have any copyright questions about materials or resources that you are using for instructional or research purposes, please email the SU Libraries copyright team at cipa@syr.edu.

Myths and Truths about Copyright and Distance Education

TRUTH: Instructors working in nonprofit educational institutions can use fair use rights for instructional purposes.

MYTH: These rights apply to all types of materials online, for all purposes, and are absolute.

TRUTH: Copyrighted materials can only be used in particular circumstances and for particular uses that balance your rights as an educator with the copyright owner's rights. More information on fair use can be found on the second tab of this resource guide, titled "Fair Use."

MYTH: Instructors can share copyrighted materials online beyond what is legally permitted and no one is going to notice.

TRUTH: Instructors can share certain copyrighted materials that qualify under the Fair Use, the Teach Act, Open Access licensing, or because rights and permissions are received in one way or another. All circumstances are individual, and unique, and there are times when materials cannot be re-used or shared online legally. 

Best Practices for Legal Sharing Resources Online

With online instruction, there are no black-and-white rules governing fair use of copyrighted materials. It depends, and each situation is unique. The following best practices can help you in choosing and selecting materials to use for online courses.  ​

  • Do you know if you can use it for instructional purposes? If not, err on the side of caution instead of infringing on someone's intellectual and creative property. Or, reach out to SU Libraries for assistance.
  • If you have any questions about a particular resource, or about copyright in general, contact the SU Libraries copyright team at cipa@syr.edu. We're more than happy to work with faculty on navigating your questions.
  • Do you know if there is a license to an online resource through the SU Libraries, the catalog, or Summon? For example, provide links to an article (material licensed through SU Libraries) in the class Blackboard site using permalinks, so that the students access these materials themselves once they log in. For help with using SU Libraries permalinks, please visit Adding Academic Content to Blackboard Courses. Remember, having students access the materials directly through the content management system (Blackboard) and permalinks is legally permitted because you are providing links to a licensed resource that allows for this type of use. It allows SU Libraries to gather more accurate data about which resources are being used, which allows us to make more informed choices about which resources to maintain or license. 
  • The same holds true for videos: Whenever possible, provide links or embed the video, rather than copying the video and uploading it directly. Blackboard has created a support page with tips on embedding videos.

Fair Use:

  •  allows instructors to share up to 10% of a resource for instructional purposes. For example, if you have a 300-page book and would like to share a 20-page chapter with your students, fair use would generally allow you to scan the chapter, share online with your students. Rule: 10% or 1 chapter, whichever first.

  • does not allow you to reuse materials semester after semester, but instead only for one instructional period (such as a semester). If you keep sharing a copyrighted resource with your students, it's likely that you're violating copyright. Fair use in this way applies to one semester. After that, you must get permissions from copyright holder, open-access, or a library license.

  • Learn more about fair use and what rights you have under these guidelines. Take a look at the next tab on this guide, "Fair Use," for more detailed information on what criteria you need to consider when evaluating the usability of resources for online instruction. Additionally, Stanford University has complied a substantial list of practical examples of how fair use might or might not apply for using particular resources. This helpful list includes examples for text-based resources (such as journal articles), artwork, audiovisual materials, music, parodies, and online resources. 
  • If you are using a resources that was created in another country, you need to consider not only U.S.-based copyright policies and laws, and the laws from the country in which the resource was created. Using international resources complicates the decision about those resources can be used for instructional purposes. Rule: use whichever is stricter.

Permissions:

  • If fair use doesn't allow you to use a copyrighted material for instructional purposes, one option would be to contact the copyright holder and ask for permission. The copyright holder might grant permission, deny permission, or as for a possibly substantial fee. Securing permissions is an option, but can be lengthy, costly, and frustrating, but if particular copyrighted resources are crucial for your instruction and fair use doesn't allow you to use them, SU Libraries can provide guidance on how to secure permissions.

Open Access:

  • If you're unfortunately unable to use copyright-protected materials for your instruction, there are ways to find alternative materials that might not be as heavily protected by copyright. Open Access materials and Open Educational Resources allow sharing and re-use by anyone- including researchers, and instructors  with fewer copyright restrictions, such as what is allowed under Creative Commons licensing. You can also learn more about and find Open Educational Resources (OER) on the third tab of this research guide. Additionally, if you'd like help from a librarian in tracking down some OER for your instruction, please contact the appropriate subject librarian for assistance.