Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright FAQs for Faculty

In the Classroom

Can I make copies of an article to hand out to students?

Yes, this is probably fair use (though there may be exceptions, so consider the four factors of fair use when deciding). Limit what you share. One article is fine, but don't copy and distribute an entire issue of a journal, for example. Since fair use favors spontaneous usage, avoid using copies of that same article the following semester.

 

Can I show a movie in class?

Yes. Unless your copy of the movie was illegally created, you may show a film in the classroom for educational purposes. This is covered under 17 U.S.C. Section 110(1), which is an explicit legal exemption that permits "performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction."

Note that this exemption applies only to face-to face-teaching, so the use of films in distance education would need to meet the requirements of either fair use or the TEACH Act.

Additionally, this exemption does not extend to streaming videos using your personal subscription to an online streaming service such as Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. The licensing terms and user agreements for such services vary, but most allow streaming only for personal, noncommercial use with no exemptions for classroom usage. Netflix, however, does permit one-time educational screenings of select documentaries providing certain conditions are met. 

 

Can I use copyrighted images as part of a slideshow or handout?

Yes, using images for educational purposes with attribution to the original creator often falls within fair use. As always, you should limit what you reproduce and distribute. Copying an entire book of photography to hand out to students, for example, would exceed the bounds of fair use.
 

Can I make changes to a copyrighted photograph I want to use in the classroom?

Yes, as long as the modified image is being used for education, comment, criticism, or parody and you inform the audience that alterations have been made to the original work, this would be considered fair use.

Online

Can I create a PDF copy of a textbook for students to use?

No. Although this is an educational use, creating a physical or digital copy of a textbook that students would otherwise purchase clearly impacts the market for the book. Especially because the entirety of the book is being used in this example, both the amount and effect of the usage weigh heavily against a fair use ruling.

 

Can I download a file and upload it to Canvas for my students to access?

Possibly, but, if the work is copyright protected, you'll need to consider the percentage of the work you're using. An audio clip from a podcast would likely be permissible, but an e-book would not be. In either case, though, you should seek permission if you intend to use the work over multiple semesters since you'd be relying on fair use, which favors spontaneity.

If possible, post a link to the material instead. Do not upload or link to a copy of the work if you have reason to believe that it may have been created illegally, such as a pirated film found on YouTube.

Be sure to only share files on Canvas (where access is restricted to currently enrolled students) rather than on your personal website. Take down the file or remove student access to the course once the semester has ended.

 

Can I share a video from a streaming service with my students via Zoom?

Probably not. Using your personal subscription to a streaming service and Zoom's screen share feature to share a video with your students would be a violation of the terms and conditions of most streaming services, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Additionally, content from such services is often DRM-protected to disable sharing this way. In lieu of this, Netflix has made a few full length documentaries available to watch online via their YouTube channel. Providing links in your course Canvas to videos that have been made freely and legally available online is the recommended way to share such content. 

 

Can I include copyrighted images on Canvas?

Yes. Images can be used on Canvas as they would in a face to face classroom, as long as the use either qualifies as fair use or complies with the requirements of the TEACH Act:

1. The image must be legally created and relate to a course learning objective.
2. Access should be limited to students and removed when their enrollment in the course ends.
3. Inform students that the image is under copyright and that redistributing copies is a violation of copyright, and attribute the work to its original creator.

This would not apply to your personal website, where access is unrestricted.

 

Can I embed videos from YouTube in Canvas?

Yes. Embedding videos doesn't create a copy. If the video is removed from YouTube, it will no longer be accessible through Canvas. The same standards apply here as to other materials you may link to: the video should be ADA compliant and should be legally created.

 

My students are making websites for an assignment. Can they include copyrighted music?

No. The primary concern in this scenario is unrestricted access. If the audience is limited to people enrolled in the class, students may use copyrighted materials for assignments, such as including music in a slideshow that is presented in class or uploaded to Canvas. However, a website that is available for anyone to view would not be covered by classroom exemptions or the TEACH Act.

Contact Us

Have a question you don't see answered here? Contact us!

Library staff cannot give legal advice, but we're happy to answer additional questions about copyright.

You can contact us by:

  • E-mail: library@elac.edu
  • Live Chat: Use the "Ask Us 24/7" chat box for immediate assistance.
  • Call or Text (During the Covid-19 closure): 323-387-3133 (Leave a message and a librarian will return your call.)
  • In Person (Unavailable during the Covid-19 closure): Visit us at the Research Help Desk during opening hours.