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Copyright and Fair Use

Adapted from Texas A&M University Central Texas libuguide.

Copyright in the Classroom

Fair use offers an extra ordinary important opportunity for faculty to make reasonable and limited uses of copyrighted materials. Clipping, cutting, pasting, uploading, posting, and many other activities that are common at the university may be copyright infringements or may be within fair use. When do you need to think about fair use? Some example situations:

  • Uploading materials to Canvas or e-reserves
  • Clipping and copying materials into innovative teaching tools
  • Posting materials for distance learning
  • Developing databases of copyrighted works for research
  • Sharing articles and other materials with colleagues
  • Placing copies on library reserves

Making Instructional Materials Available for Students

Using a course website or a university-supported Course Management System (CMS), such as Canvas, to make instructional materials available to students can raise many copyright issues. These systems can be used to provide a wide range of materials, from articles and book chapters to sound recordings and visual images. However, such materials may be posted and shared only in a manner consistent with copyright law, which gives legal protection to nearly all text, images, audiovisual recordings, and other materials, whether available on teh internet or in any other medium. 

Instructional materials may be posted to a CMS or a course website under any of the following circumstances, as detailed more fully below.

  • The faculty member is the owner of the copyright in the material, or
  • The material is made available by linking rather than copying, or
  • The copyright owner of the materials grants permission, or
  • The material is in the public domain, or
  • The use is within fair use under the law or another statutory exception.

Online Materials

The intricacies of using copyrighted materials online are vast. A simple rule: you can provide a URL without any problem. Many URLs faculty provide are to articles and journals that are accessible only to UT Health San Antonio students, faculty, and staff, because the library has purchased a license for that site. But to copy an article or a pdf from one of these controlled sites may be a violation, even if you are not printing it but putting it online for your students, so it is better to provide the URL. 

More Resources

TEACH Act Toolkit - The TEACH Act is legislation that was passed by Congress to give non-profit educational institutions to ability to use copyrighted works for some specific purposes (e.g. present a video in class)

Exceptions for Instructors - Find out if your intended use meets the requirements set out in the law.