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Copyright & Fair Use: Teaching online FAQ (COVID-19)

Teaching online copyright FAQ for faculty & staff

Teaching online will be a completely new experience for many of our faculty. The rules of how you can share and distribute information and resources with your students online vs. face-to-face teaching vary. We are librarians and not lawyers; therefore, we cannot provide any legal guidance on these matters, however, we can share our opinions. Fair Use and the TEACH Act will be very helpful in making the case to use and distribute copyrighted materials to your students. In addition to the following FAQ, we strongly advise you to take a look at the blog post put together by UMass Amherst.

Copyright restrictions certainly affect how we as educators can legally share information with our students, even for educational purposes. This is why the library is constantly advocating for Open Access and Open Educational Resources (OER), which have open licenses that permit the free sharing of information. Teaching online is so much easier when you don’t have to worry about breaching copyright, because like it or not, "Educational Use" is not the same as Fair Use, and doesn't always hold up in a court of law. 

This is not advised. If you would like to show a film virtually, we suggest you search our streaming collections or reach out to to see if we have access to a licensed, streaming version. If we do not, we may be able to purchase a license for you.


Yes. Unlike the copyright restrictions of personal DVDs, content uploaded to Youtube is a little different. As the user, you are not responsible for any infringement the content uploader may be engaging in and you are free to share it with your students either via a link (asynchronous viewing) or right in your online session via screen share (synchronous viewing). If the film/content is clearly a ripped off version of a feature film, it is advised that you do not use it.

Unless you are the copyright holder or the article itself is Open Access (clearly licensed in the public domain or with a Creative Commons license), you cannot upload PDFs to Bridges as this is a copyright infringement. You CAN, however, LINK to PDFs. When you do this, make sure you are using a stable, permalink. For help doing this, read our quick advice, here: -- when in doubt, link out!.

You cannot upload a DVD into Bridges unless you obtain permission from the copyright holder of the content. Just because you own a copy of the DVD does not make you the copyright holder. This is normally the publisher. We will be happy to work with you to see if one of our streaming services has the title you need or something similar.

The library does not own the copyrights to the DVDs in our collections, therefore, we cannot put them online without obtaining permission from the copyright holders. Even if we were granted permission, given the current circumstances, Classroom and Event Support does not have the capacity to transfer DVDs to digital files. The library now subscribes to Swank, which has many popular and feature film titles available to license. Please check with Christine Fagan if you need access to a film and you are unable to locate it in Kanopy, Films on Demand, or Alexander Street Press.

If you found the article online, just add the link in your Bridges class so students can easily access the original file themselves. If you have a hard copy of an article, and you'd like to scan it and upload it to Bridges, you cannot do so without the permission of the copyright holder. Try to find the article online and put the link in Bridges. Make sure the content you’re linking is not behind a paywall.