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Information in this page was reviewed and approved by legal counsel. Please see disclaimer. Review date: January 2009 .

ePortfolio & Copyright

*UConn's e-portfolio system is in transition and the current e-portfolio system was decommissioned February 8, 2013.

Topics Covered

What is ePortfolio?


ePortfolio is a web-based information management tool, which allows UConn and non-UConn users (guests) the opportunity to access and share ePortfolio records and other documents.  ePortfolio can be thought of as an electronic file cabinet in which you can store multiple types of information by and about yourself, such as writing samples, photographs or design samples, video clips, music clips, resumes, internship experiences or mentors.  Similar to an investment ePortfolio the more broad the information that is stored in ePortfolio, the greater the return to the user.  Creating an ePortfolio encourages you to think critically about and document your thoughts and experiences related to personal information, education, career, skills, professional practices and recognition.  Once this information is entered into ePortfolio, the ePortfolio owner can choose to share either part or all of his or her entire ePortfolio with other individuals. (Source: "What is ePortfolio," UConn's Digital Learning Center, accessed 24 May 2007.)

Copyright Implications

As with other creative and/or original works, the contents of ePortfolio are protected by copyright. Individuals usually own the copyright to works that s/he created. It may, however, be an infringement of copyright to upload (and thereby "distribute") the works of others in an ePortfolio. This would include background music, decorative images, literary excerpts, or by-products of academic activities (e.g., someone else's photographs of class, someone else's musical composition that the individual performed, someone else's performance of a student's composition, etc.). ePortfolio owners are responsible for the consequences of posting and "distributing" copyrighted materials that belong to others.

What the Law Says

U.S. copyright law grants copyright owners several exclusive rights, but it also allow several exceptions so that others may use their works. "Fair use" is the best-known exception, but anyone establishing an ePortfolio must do a four-factor analysis to determine whether the contemplated use of the copyrighted material is indeed "fair." If the work is protected by copyright, and the intended use is not a fair use, then the copyright owner's permission should be requested. (It is also professionally courteous to request permission in advance.)

Considerations When Creating the ePortfolio

Individuals can "manage" their risk by considering the following questions when considering whether to upload materials to an ePortfolio, in conjunction with a four-factor fair-use analysis.

What level of access to your ePortfolio have you established?

The inclusion of copyrighted materials in a site that is available only in a secured environment to a limited audience and time period (classmates in a single course, an instructor, an advisor) for the purposes of education and research may weigh in favor of fair use. Wider distribution and/or availability could be considered an infringement of the copyright of others.

Why are you including the copyrighted work?

Some types and uses of a copyrighted work are considered to be more "fair" than others. The inclusion of an appropriate amount of copyrighted material for the purpose of news reporting, criticism, and parody, for example, often weighs in favor of fair use. The inclusion of copyrighted works that directly apply to or illustrate your educational activities may weigh in favor of fair use. Copyrighted works that provide aesthetic appeal or "entertainment value" in your ePortfolio may weigh against fair use.

How much of someone else's work are you including?

One of the four factors used in the determination of fair use is "the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole." Using only that which illustrates the point would weigh more in favor of fair use.

Have you included proper citations to the work of others?

Can you make due with a link to the item, rather than uploading a copy, and bypass the question altogether? You should, of course, properly attribute your sources to avoid the appearance of plagiarism. Be aware, though, that plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same thing (learn more).

University Policy

University policy is very specific: it is a violation to use university information technology resources in an illegal manner.

"Information technology (IT) resources must be utilized respectfully and as authorized and designed.

While utilizing University-owned IT resources, no user or administrator is authorized to engage in any activity that violates University policy or any illegal activity under local, state, federal or international law." See the full policy at Acceptable Use, Information Technology.

Also, when any copyright infringement, through file sharing or otherwise, occurs on the university Internet service, UConn is vicariously liable for copyright infringement.


Related Links:

Go to UConn's ePortfolio. (Some policy statements are in the FAQ.)

Legal & Privacy Statements from

Terms of Use (sample from Cleveland State U.).

Overcoming Obstacles to Authentic ePortfolio Assessment -- deals with questions of ownership

Using Student Work

Sample Permission Letters

Did you know... that UConn faculty and staff can set up an ePortfolio as well?
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