Using Copyright Material

Interactive Guide

Not sure what copyright guidelines to follow? Try this free interactive guide.

Copyright Decision Tree
An easy-to-use screening tool from the University of Minnesota.

Scenarios of Use

Common Teaching Scenarios
A collection of potential scenarios to help make copyright decisions from the University of Minnesota Libraries.


General Guidelines to Follow in Courses Regarding Copyright

Common Questions

Is it permissible to stream a movie clip from one semester to the next?
Oddly enough, yes. Under the TEACH Act, performances of a reasonable portion of a video are not restricted to one-semester use while the reproduction and distribution of print material under the Guidelines on Multiple Copying for Classroom is restricted to one semester use without permission. This is because these materials are reproduced in multiple copies. The difference is that the movie clip cannot be downloaded by students and is only performed and not duplicated by or for students.

How much of a copyrighted…(film on DVD or VHS; video of TV programs, commercial, or news; CD or audiotape of musician or band; slide of photographed of artwork; images from books, i.e., photographs, diagrams, lithographs, etc.) can I digitize and use?
This goes back to the fair use conundrum: there is no numerical amount that has been deemed acceptable, and no amount that has been deemed too much. It is safe to say that copying an entire work, or copying the “heart” of the work likely weighs against fair use, then the other three factors listed above should weigh in favor of it to legitimize the use of the material.

If use of the work falls within the performance and display exemption, then there is no limit on the use of the material in a traditional face-to-face teaching activity as long as the work being displayed or performed is a legal copy, such as a DVD purchased at a store.

If the material is being used for online instruction the rules are a bit more complex. You may transmit video or audio of all of a non-dramatic literary work, such as poetry or short story reading. You may also transmit a complete recording or video of a non-dramatic musical work. For all dramatic literary and musical performances  (including opera, music videos, and musicals) you are limited to transmitting reasonable and limited portions. To determine what is a reasonable portion, you will need to refer back to the rules of fair use. 

Can you be more specific about the amount of time material may be used in a password protected course?
It depends on what the material is. If it is text material, then the Guidelines on Multiple Copying for Classroom Use apply, and they relate to use for one term only without permission. If the material is a graphic work, a sound recording, movie or other video performance, then the TEACH ACT applies, and it has no time limitation although it has many other restrictions such as the portion that may be used, etc.

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