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Online Academic Scenarios

*How much of any video can Prof. __________ digitize and stream?

Think Fair Use:

  • Purpose (not for profit) 
  • Nature (Is it a feature film, educational video?  Highlight created?  New?)
  • Amount (Brief clips? Heart of the work?) 
  • Effect (Can students reasonably purchase at a low price? Has the library purchased the film?)

Best Practices: Consider linking to the library's licensed online media collection and open educational resources in film/video format.


*I saw on YouTube that this documentary is posted by some users. I didn't download it. How does that happen? Is the DVD in our library or do we have rights to use it?

Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) a “safe harbor” exists for ISPs (Internet Service Providers) that register an agent with the U.S. Copyright Officer, to receive notices of claimed infringements. In order for the ISP (YouTube) to have full protection, it must “expeditiously” remove or “take down” the material from the system.  The ISP may later investigate and maybe even restore materials if they are ultimately not a violation.  The ISP must remove first and ask questions later.  Users post the content; YouTube is merely the host.  A user can post a video clip to YouTube, and if the copyright owner objects, the owner can send a notice to YouTube’s agent. Ordinarily the ISP must expeditiously remove the item to avoid liability. Without a notice from the copyright owner, however, the video remains on YouTube.

As a faculty member interested in using this YouTube video for class, remember the work is protected even without a copyright notice. On an ISP like YouTube, downloading a copyrighted film without the copyright holder’s permission violates the owner's copyright to his/her work. However under fair use the faculty member can "view" it in an academic setting in reasonable and limited portions and in an amount typically displayed in the course of a live classroom session.  "Linking and embedding do not require copying and pasting of content, and as a result seldom stir serious copyright questions." Page 74, 105.  Crews, Kenneth. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.  Print.

If the library owns the documentary that was posted to YouTube the licensing agreement between the library and copyright holder prevails.


*What about posting to a secured website or LMS?  Fair use applies to electronic uses just as it does to paper copies. The problem is digital copies can be easily uploaded, copied, and shared without practical constraints hard copies present.  Prof. __________ should restrict with password protections, and take the time to be sure students understand that reproduction and distribution have copyright implications.  Many of the issues Prof. _________ faces are similar to issues of fair use with respect to course reserves.


*Prof. _____________ wants to create an innovative teaching tool, copying and pasting a variety of works into a single cohesive set of materials for the students enrolled in his classes.  He plans to gather and edit the materials as an evolving wiki (type of content management system, but it differs from most other such systems, in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing structure to emerge according to the needs of the users), available to his students, to be revised and edited with new materials throughout the semester.  Students access the wiki through a password-protected site.
If Prof. _____’s wiki is little more than copies of reading and other materials, he is probably within fair use when using brief portions that are transformative (say using the sources in commentary and criticism); and he should be more careful when using large portions of works such as straight reproductions. It will depend on each item. Clips, selected excerpts, nonfiction text = fair use probably.  Music, art, poetry, creative works = less so. He can strengthen fair use argument with only excerpts of articles and eliminate issues of fair use entirely by linking to library databases and open access sources.


"One of the advantages of a wiki and many other technologies is the ability to link to other sources and to embed videos and other materials from sites such as YouTube.  Linking and embedding do not require copying and pasting of content, and as a result seldom stir serious copyright questions." Page 74, 105.  Crews, Kenneth. Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators. Chicago: American Library Association, 2012.  Print.

A part from fair use, Prof. _________ may also consider using the TEACH Act.

Traditional Classroom Scenarios

*Prof. ___________ needs to make single copies of articles, chapters and other materials to support her research or help prepare for teaching.  Are individual copies within fair use?

Copying of single, brief items is fair use in the context of nonprofit education and research.  Also are single downloads and printouts from the Internet or from licensed databases.


*Professor __________ wants to make photocopies of articles and book excerpts as handouts for her students.  Is she within fair use?
So far, there is no on point case law in education!  Commercially, Kinko’s was found to be infringing copyrights when it photocopied book chapters for sale to students as course packs for the university classes (commercial, excessive amount, and adverse effect on sales of books to those students). In Princeton University Press v. Michigan Document Services, Inc.,  a private copy shop created and sold course packs under circumstances similar to Kinko’s, and was found to have acted outside of fair use.  The court used similar reasoning to the Kinko’s decision (and the judges were sharply divided).  Focused mainly on market harm.  Could have licensed or obtained permission. Securing permission is standard for course packs made by commercial shops.

Our professor has an advantage by using college photocopiers thus avoiding commercial purpose.  Also keep materials as brief as possible: limit to what is needed for educational purpose.  Think about obtaining permission.