Copyright, Fair Use, and TEACH Act

Become familiar with copyright and fair use

Under District Board Policy 3250, publishing copyrighted material without the consent of the owner on District websites (including Canvas) in violation of copyright laws is prohibited. Illegal reproduction of material protected by U.S. Copyright Law is subject to civil damages and criminal penalties including fines and imprisonment.

Please be sure that you are following copyright law and fair use requirements when you provide students with learning materials online (e.g., documents, images, and videos in Canvas, or webpages).

Bear in mind that the law allows different uses in different settings. The rules for use of materials for teaching on campus are more flexible than use of materials online.

Copyright Resources

Copyright Tips:

  • Link to copyrighted material rather than including a copy in your course site
  • Do not post entire works, such as articles and textbooks, unless you have permission from the copyright owner
  • Get permission from the copyright owner of works if you want to use the work in its entirety

FAQs (adapted from Baylor University)

Can I post a work to Canvas?

Because there are no exact rules governing fair use, you have to use your best judgment when deciding whether to post materials to Canvas without permission. There is no specific number of chapters, paragraphs, or lines that is certainly fair (or unfair), nor are there specific percentages. Copying a single chapter from a book may be fine, while copying the entire book usually is not.

Consider the four fair-use factors:
  1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work, such as whether the work is fiction or non-fiction, published or unpublished
  3. The amount of the work used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole, such as using a poem in its entirety, or using one chapter from a long book
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work

Can I use a work in a distance learning class?

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act) says that teachers and students at accredited educational institutions can use works for distance learning without permission under certain circumstances.

If you:
  • are an educator at an accredited educational institution,
  • will supervise your students' use of copyrighted materials,
  • are using the material as an integral part of a class session,
  • are using the material as an integral part of your curriculum, and
  • are using the material that is directly related to and of material assistance to your teaching content, and you plan to use copyrighted works in the following ways:
    • performances of nondramatic literary works (i.e., a recording of a novel being read aloud)
    • performances of nondramatic musical works (i.e., a recording of a symphony)
    • performances of reasonable amounts of any work (i.e., an excerpt from a movie) or
    • display of any work in an amount comparable to what would be used in a live classroom
then your use aligns with the Teach Act. For more help, see Peggy Hoon's TEACH Toolkit.

What if I got the work from a website?

Works from a website should be presumed to be protected by copyright. The Internet is not the equivalent of public domain. If a work is published online with a statement that it is in the public domain, you will have to judge whether or not these claims are trustworthy, keeping in mind that such claims will not protect you should a copyright holder object to your use.

You may encounter works online for which the author or creator specifically grants rights to use them, such as those released under a Creative Commons license. A Creative Commons license grants specific uses of web-based materials. It provides a mechanism for others to make certain uses of a work from the web without asking for permission, provided you follow the terms set by the creator.

What if the work was published outside the US?

There are differences in copyright law across countries. The Berne Convention, signed by 163 countries, requires that countries recognize the works of foreign authors the same way they do those of their own nationals. For example, all works performed or published in the US, are subject to the terms of US copyright law, no matter where they were created originally. Most countries have standardized their copyright terms, so foreign copyrights tend to last as long as U.S. copyrights: the life of the author plus 70 years. When determining whether or not you can make a particular use of a foreign work, you will need to consider the specific circumstances of your case, such as the country where the work originated, whether or not the work is in print, and how you plan to use the work.

What is a Creative Commons license?

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that created a set of simple, easy-to-understand copyright licenses. These licenses allow creators to mark a work with permission to make a variety of uses, with the aim of expanding the range of things available for others to quote, adapt, and build upon. Creative Commons licenses do two things: They allow creators to share their work easily, and they allow everyone to find work that is free to use without permission. As long as you obey the terms of the license attached to the work, you can use Creative Commons licensed material without fear of accidentally infringing someone's copyright.

What if my intended use is not a fair use?

If you have determined that the use you want to make is not a fair use, you must ask for permission from the copyright holder.

Last Updated May 26, 2017
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