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Teaching and Copyright

Instructors often want to reproduce copyrighted materials in course handouts, packets, multimedia presentations, course reserves, and course/instructor web sites. Instructors also create new works for teaching purposes that are in turn protected by copyright. Instructors can find a basic copyright overview in this web site, as well as practical guidance for common situations. (Note that topics herein are not legal advice and do not substitute for legal counsel.)

In deciding whether it is permissible to reproduce a copyrighted work for use in teaching, the instructor should determine whether the intended use qualifies as fair use (try these checklists), is allowed under another legal exception, or if the work is available under a license agreement. If not, the instructor should seek permission to use it or seek alternative resources.

In This Section:

Guidelines for Digital Course Materials
Distance Education & Copyright
Instructors’ Lectures
TEACH Act (Benefits and Requirements)
Teaching Online
Using or Publishing Student Work

Guidelines for Digital Course Materials

This guide provides instruction and a worksheet to help you make decisions on how to provide electronic access to academic resources, including linking Library licensed content and external content.

Course Packs

A course pack is a compilation of various reproduced copyrighted works (e.g., articles from journals, chapters from textbooks, and various other readings) that an instructor assembles, and that students purchase at the campus bookstore. The University of Connecticut’s Bookstore creates custom coursepacks at the instructor’s request for students to purchase and provides assistance in getting the necessary permissions to create and reproduce printed course packs for sale at the Co-op. Obtaining permissions can take several weeks, and copyrights must be cleared or renewed each semester. Please contact the Bookstore for more information.


Instructors’ Lectures, Notes, Handouts, and Displays

The Office of the General Counsel in Storrs advised that instructors include an assertion of copyright in their syllabi and suggested the following language:

My lectures, notes, handouts, and displays are protected by state common law and federal copyright law. They are my own original expression and I’ve recorded them prior or during my lecture in order to ensure that I obtain copyright protection. Students are authorized to take notes in my class; however, this authorization extends only to making one set of notes for your own personal use and no other use. I will inform you as to whether you are authorized to record my lectures at the beginning of each semester. If you are so authorized to record my lectures, you may not copy this recording or any other material, provide copies of either to anyone else, or make a commercial use of them without prior permission from me.

Students should be aware that instructors’ materials are protected by copyright regardless of whether such a statement appears in the syllabus.


Distance Education & Copyright

The TEACH Act (an amendment to the copyright law) broadens the scope of materials that can be transmitted digitally to support distance education and courses with a digital component.

The following displays and performances are allowed to be transmitted:

  • Displays
    1. All types of materials may be displayed but only in an amount comparable to what is typically displayed in a live classroom setting.
  • Performances
    1. Complete versions of nondramatic literary or musical works may be performed.
    2. Only limited and reasonable portions of any other work such as literary and musical works, audiovisual works, and sound recordings may be performed.

The following materials may not be transmitted under the distance education exemption:

  1. Textbooks, course packs or other material in any media, copies or phonorecords which are typically purchased or acquired by students for their independent use and research that would be used in one or more class session.
  2. Works that are marketed primarily for use in a digital classroom.

If the use does not qualify for the distance education exemption, then the fair use analysis should be applied. Permission to use the work is required, if none of the exemptions apply.



TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act, 2002)

The TEACH Act (Section 110(2) of the U.S. copyright law) allows educators to perform or display copyrighted works in distance education environments, albeit under specified conditions. If you would like to show a video or display an image during your online class, you may want to consider whether that use is allowable under the TEACH Act.

Implementing TEACH can be difficult because of its complexity and the many detailed requirements for instructors, technologists, and institutions.

Benefits of the TEACH Act

The TEACH Act allows instructors to do the following things, again, under specified conditions:

  • Performances and displays of nearly all types of copyrighted works
  • Transmission of digital materials to students at distant education locations
  • Storage of copyrighted content for brief periods of time, such as that which occurs in the process of transmitting digital content
  • Creating digital versions of print or analog works

Requirements of the TEACH Act

In order to take advantage of these benefits, instructors and institutions must meet certain policy requirements specified by the TEACH Act. Reasonable measures to assure that only enrolled students will have access to materials during the course of instruction must be in place before TEACH exemptions can be made. Below is a list of the primary requirements:

  • The teaching must occur at an accredited, nonprofit educational institution.
  • Only lawfully acquired copies may be used.
  • Use is limited to performances and displays. The TEACH Act does not apply to materials that are for students’ independent use and retention, such as textbooks or other readings.
  • Use of materials must be within the context of “mediated instructional activities” analogous to the activities of a face-to-face class session.
  • The materials to be used should not include those primarily marketed for the purposes of distance education (i.e. an electronic textbook or a multimedia tutorial).
  • Only those students enrolled in the class should have access to the material.
  • Reasonable efforts must be made to prevent students from distributing the material after viewing it.
  • If a digital version of the work is already available, then an analog copy cannot be converted for educational use.
  • Students must be informed that the materials they access are protected by copyright.
  • The educational institution must have a policy on the use of copyrighted materials and provide informative resources for faculty advising them on their rights.

The requirements for complying with the TEACH Act are numerous. (See the top right navigation bar for more information.) As opportunities for applying the TEACH Act are limited in scope, keep in mind that you may also consider to fair use when using copyrighted works in distance education settings.


Teaching Online

Fair Use and Teaching Online

Fair use is medium-neutral; it applies to the use of both print and digital content alike. If you would like to make excerpts from journals, textbooks, and various other sources available online at your HuskyCT course site, you will want to consider whether that use is a fair use.

Fair use is determined by the results of understanding and weighing the four factors of fair use. You will need to conduct a four-factor fair use analysis for each work you want to use–each journal article, each textbook section, and any other work you wish to include on the class HuskyCT site. The result may be mixed and fair use might apply to some works while others may require permission from the rights owner for inclusion on the class website. Keep in mind also that certain restrictions on access to the work may impact the outcome of your analysis.

Note on Library Resources: if an article is obtained from the Libraries’ licensed electronic resources, it may be protected by a license agreement. Before posting a PDF of an article obtained from the library, you need to understand the rules for use contained in the license agreement between the publisher and the Libraries. Often, the license agreements do not allow copying of PDF files and reposting them to a class web site or HuskyCT site. However, in most cases you can make articles available to students from a course web page through a direct link.


Using or Publishing Student Work

As authors, students may hold copyright to their own work, even if created for a course. Instructors or researchers who wish to publish student work, upload it to a web site (including HuskyCT), or make student work available as models for future classes, should respect this potential right and get permission from their students. Students who wish to use other students’ work should do also do this.

Instructors or students may wish to create or adapt an authorization form to make this process easier (see sample permission letters). Ideally, a brochure or web source outlining students’ rights would be distributed along with any forms.  Students should be given the option to participate or not. (Some departments may have specific policies or activities that are exceptions to these suggestions.)