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Intellectual Property Toolkit


Can I Use it image; click to download a pdfInstructors may worry about copyright issues that arise in the course of teaching - showing films, sharing readings, and a host of other issues. The information shared on this page will provide an overview of the following issues. The information is not offered as legal advice.

Can I use that? Decision Map Created by Regents of University of Minnesota, 2011 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial Unported License. 

In-class Activities:

Copyright law - Classroom Exemption (17 U.S.C. §110) applies in very limited situations:

To qualify you must:

  • Be in a classroom ("or similar place devoted to instruction")
  • Be there in person, engaged in face-to-face teaching activities
  • Be at a non-profit educational institution

If (and only if!) you meet these conditions, the exemption gives both instructors and students broad rights to perform or display any works. 


Classroom Use Exemption does not apply

  • Outside the nonprofit, in-person, classroom teaching environment!
  • Online - even to wholly course-related activities and course websites. 
  • To interactions that are not in-person - even simultaneous distance learning interactions.
  • At for-profit educational institutions.

The Classroom Use Exemption also only authorizes performance or display. If you are making or distributing copies (i.e., handing out readings in class), that is not an activity that the Classroom Use Exemption applies to.

The TEACH Act (17 U.S.C. §110(2)) does create some rights for teaching uses of copyrightable works in the online environment, but it's much more technical and there are a lot more restrictions.

Sharing Course Materials

Don't make any copies

Copyright issues with course materials usually arise due the copying and physically or electronically distributing copies.

Recommendations for sharing course materials without making copies:

  • If the readings are freely available online, share the link either on handouts or through Blackboard.
  • If the readings are available online via anUniversity subscription, use the Permalink feature provided by most services or contact a librarian for a permanent link to share.
  • Have students buy their own copies, or watch or listen to video or audio via personal accounts.
  • Put materials containing the readings on reserve (physically) in the Nash Library & Student Learning Commons.

Getting Permission

Use of materials requires instructors to consider if such copies are already permitted by law, or whether you will need permission from (and usually payment to) the copyright holder.


Fair Use

Fair use is a provision in the law that allows some copying without permission or payment. Refer to the Fair Use section of this guide to learn more. 

Copyright and Blackboard:

Items placed in Blackboard must comply with United States Copyright Law.
When providing digital materials within Blackboard courses, instructors must either obtain permission for use or ensure that they are meeting the fair use standards of U.S. copyright law.


Guidelines for Posting in Blackboard

  • All items shared must only be viewed by enrolled students. 
  • All materials must be legally obtained
  • Material use must be for educational, non-commercial purposes. 
  • Providing a link to materials is preferred to uploading a scanned item. Contact our librarians for assistance with obtaining links for articles and ebooks within Nash Library resources.

Online Teaching: TEACH Act*

*Source: Information provided by the Copyright Clearance Center's The TEACH Act document.

Officially identified as Section 110(2) of the Copyright Act provides accredited, nonprofit U.S. Educational institutions under certain circumstances the ability to use lawfully acquired work produced/marketed for performance or display:

  • The use must be a part of mediated instructional activities
  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in specific class
  • The use must be for "live" or asynchronous class sessions
  • The use must not include transmission of textbook materials, materials typically purchased or acquired by students or works specifically developed for online uses. 

The institution must have developed and publicized its copyright policies, specifically informing students that course content may be covered by copyright adn include notice of copyright on the online materials. The institution must implement some technological measure to ensure compliance with these policies. 


TEACH Act does not allow:

  • Electronic Reserves, coursepacks or interlibrary loan
  • Commercial documentary delivery
  • Textbooks or other digital content provided under license from author, publisher or other entity.
  • Use of materials that are unlawfully made
  • Conversion of materials from analog to digital formats, except when within TEACH Act size restrictions, no digital version is available or the digtial version uses technological protection mesaures that prevent its use.