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Copyright for Faculty

Best Practices for Copyright and Course Materials

Avoid copyright concerns by minimizing the amount of copyrighted works you use and copy:

  1. Use course materials that do not come with copyright issues. Open educational resources are licensed in a way that permits you to share them with students without restriction, and in many cases, you can edit and tailor the resources to fit your course.
  2. Avoid copyright concerns by linking to copyrighted content found on the internet or by using built-in website features to share (such as embedding a video in your Canvas course), rather than making and sharing copies. However, you should not share links to materials that you know are illegally made copies.
  3. If you want to copy and share content found on the internet, review the website’s terms of use to make sure this is allowable. Although you might only be copying a small portion, which could otherwise qualify as fair use, website terms of use can override fair use.
  4. Link to library resources, like articles or book chapters, rather than downloading and sharing copies. Some databases and publishers have terms and conditions that are more restrictive than others when it comes to use of their resources. Linking directly to a resource can also allow students to access the resource in whatever format works best for them.

If you want to share course materials with students through Canvas, consider whether or not your use:

If you want to share performances or displays of copyrighted works with students during a class session, consider whether or not your use:

Fair Use and Course Materials

You may have heard of a copyright "rule" that says sharing one book chapter or 10% of a work is not copyright infringement. However, this is not a true rule you can rely on. It is not part of copyright law or recognized by courts, and it not a substitute for a fair use analysis, which must always be done on a case-by-case basis.

If you want to share course materials with students under fair use:

  1. Do not rely on blanket "rules" of what is allowable under fair use.
  2. Always consider fair use on a case-by-case basis. Use tools like the fair use checklist linked below to help guide your thinking.
  3. Keep a copy of your analysis (like a completed fair use checklist).

Once you have made the decision to share copyrighted works with students:

  1. Provide attribution to other people's works. Attribution is not a defense against copyright infringement: you can properly attribute a work and still infringe on the creator's copyright. However, it is an ethical and professional practice that shows you are making a good faith effort to respect a creator's rights. 
  2. Share copyrighted works with students through Canvas so the materials are password protected, and access is limited to enrolled students for the duration of the semester.
  3. Provide a copyright notice in your syllabus and in Canvas (for example, on a page in your introduction module so that students must view it). 

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: The Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 10) governs the rights granted to owners of copyrighted works. In some circumstances, educational institutions may provide copies of copyrighted works to students under fair use. The materials on this course site are only for the use of students enrolled in this course to be used for purposes associated with this course, and they may not be posted online or shared with others outside of the course.

Get Permission to Share Copyrighted Works

If materials you want to share with students are not available through the library, are not freely available online, and do not fall under fair use, you will need to get permission from the copyright owner.

Barnes and Noble @ VCU partners with XanEdu to help faculty create print and digital course packs. There is no cost for faculty to use XanEdu. XanEdu also helps faculty license permissions for copyrighted materials. Instead of asking students to purchase an entire book, faculty may be able to get permission to use only the relevant chapters in a course pack, lowering the total cost for students. Learn more from XanEdu's website:

Face-to-Face Instruction Exceptions

Face-to-face instruction exceptions (17 U.S. Code § 110(1)) allow the performance and display of copyrighted works (such as performances of musical works or displays of videos/images) without permission when all of the following requirements are met:

  1. The instruction must occur in a place dedicated to instruction where the teaching and learning takes place at the same time (such as a classroom). 
  2. The instruction must occur at a non-profit educational institution. 
  3. All materials used for performance or display must be legally acquired. 

This exception does not apply to making or distributing copies of copyrighted works. When making or distributing copies, instructors must rely on fair use or seek permission from copyright holders.

Virtual Instruction Exceptions

The TEACH Act (17 U.S. Code § 110(1)) was enacted to allow certain uses of copyrighted works in virtual instruction that are comparable to uses allowed in face-to-face instruction. Virtual instruction is when a course is taught entirely online or when components of a face-to-face course are taught online (for example, through Canvas). Transmitting performances or displays of copyrighted works to students during a class session may be authorized under the TEACH Act.

The TEACH Act does not apply to materials shared online for asynchronous reading, viewing, or listening. Instructors will need to rely on fair use to share these materials.