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Copyright Implications: Shifting Your Course Online

You may face multiple pedagogical and technical hurdles when rapidly shifting your face-to-face course to online delivery. Luckily, the copyright issues are minimal. If it was okay to use specific materials in your in-person class, it is often okay to do online, especially when your online access is limited to the same enrolled students.

For assistance with handling the pedagogical and technical challenges, consult UA Digital Learning’s Thoughtful Preparation for Rapid Online Deployment for strategies and up-to-date information.

For information about copyright and moving your course online, read on.


Lecture videos & live-casting lectures

Use of audio or video in recorded or live lectures

When using copyrighted audio or video content in your course, the differences between online and in-person teaching is a bit complex. Playing audio or video from physical media during an in-person class session is allowable under the Classroom Use exception (§110(1)) to copyright law. However, that exemption does not cover playing the same media online. If you can limit audio and video use for your course to relatively brief clips, you may be able to include those in lecture recordings or live-casts under the Fair Use exception (§107) to copyright law. For media use longer than brief clips, you may need to have students independently access the content outside of your lecture videos.

The Libraries have licensed access to dozens of streaming video databases, which you can easily use in your online course. Licensed sources for streaming audio content are also available. Consult About Video Streaming on the libraries’ website for more information about accessing and requesting streaming video content. For questions about sharing video content via Zoom, contact copyright librarian Ellen Dubinsky.


Slide Images

If you are legally showing slide images in class, it is likely legal to show them to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos. Though there are differences in the exceptions to copyright between in-person and online course - the issue is usually less offline versus online than a restricted versus an unrestricted audience. As long as your new course video is shared through a D2L site for which access is limited to the same enrolled students, the legal issues are similar.

Many instructors post a copy of their slides as a file for students to access after in-person course meetings, which also likely does not present any new issues after online course meetings.


Posting Your Videos

Consult UA’s Office of Instruction and Assessment resources on Teaching Continuity Strategies for information on how and where to post videos and how to use Zoom for live lectures/meetings.


Sharing Resources with Students

If you want to share additional materials with students or if you want students to share more resources with each other in an online discussion board, keep in mind some simple guidelines:


It's always safest to link!

Linking to publicly available online content like news websites, existing online videos, etc. is rarely a copyright issue.

Linking to licensed (subscription) content through the Libraries is also a great option - a lot of our subscription content will have DOIs, PURLs, or other "permalink" options, all of which allow access for off-campus users. While posting downloadable PDFs of licensed content may be legally allowable, we strongly recommend that you post a link to the content. This is preferred practice because a) linking to copyright-protected content is never a violation of copyright, and b) having students access the content via URL rather than download provides us more accurate usage data.


Sharing copies

Making copies of new materials for students (by downloading and uploading files, or by scanning from physical documents) can present some copyright issues, but these issues are the same whether you are sharing in-person or online. Copying portions of works to share with students will often fall under the fair use exception to U.S. Copyright law. See the Libraries’ interactive tutorial Fair Use and Copyright in Instruction for more details.

To determine if a particular use of a work might qualify as fair use, the following four factors must be considered:

  1. Purpose and character of the use
  2. Nature of the copyrighted work
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole work
  4. Effect of the use upon the potential market for the copyrighted work

We recommend that you use the UA Fair Use Checklist [PDF] to help you determine whether your intended use can be considered a fair use.

During the UA campus rapid response to the COVID-19 outbreak and move of courses to online delivery, the UA Libraries offers the following guidance to faculty regarding Document Delivery and copying requests:

The fair use doctrine does not dictate strict limits to the amount of material that can be copied and still fall within the fair use exception. Rather, the doctrine states that you should use only the amount of a copyrighted work necessary to serve the purpose of your use (e.g. to meet the learning outcomes or pedagogical objectives of your course). When making Document Delivery requests for material that you will share with students via D2L, please limit your request to the amount of material needed from the time your course moves online to the end of the semester.


More Questions? Need Help?

For more copyright resources, see:


Contact the copyright librarian, Ellen Dubinsky, for further information or assistance.