KU Libraries has significant expertise to help instructors navigate copyright issues during the shift to online instruction. Of nearly equal importance: fair use and transformative use of copyrighted material in the classroom is available to instructors as they transition to online teaching during this emergency.
KU Libraries’ Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright and Digital Initiatives provides front-line information, resources, and consultations to KU faculty, staff, and students concerning copyright and fair use of copyrighted materials as they apply to teaching and research, with guidance from the KU Office of the General Counsel as needed. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Our team includes:
We are not attorneys and do not offer legal advice.
Fair use is an important provision in U.S. copyright law that balances the rights of users with those of content creators/owners. Fair use is incredibly common; examples include quotations and thumbnail images. Fair use determinations are based on four factors: the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and the effect of the use on the potential market for the work. The resources below may be useful when considering fair use for scholarly purposes:
Colleagues at other institutions have developed insightful guidance for instructors interested in reading more deeply:
Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online by Nancy Sims (UMN)
COVID-19, Copyright, and Library Superpowers: Fair Use and Exigent Circumstances by Kyle Courtney (Harvard)
The web as we understand it depends on linking to other sites. Otherwise, every page would be a cul-de-sac, unconnected to other pages, and the Internet would cease to function. Luckily, linking doesn't violate copyright, with a couple of important exceptions (see below for more information). Generally, neither permission nor a fair use analysis are necessary when linking to legally available content. This is massively helpful, both for regular web use as well as in teaching.
A very common example: instructors frequently assign articles from KU Libraries databases, which are licensed for use of KU students, faculty, and staff. Rather than downloading the pdf of an article and uploading that copy to Blackboard, provide the permalink from the item record and direct students to log in to their KU Libraries account and retrieve the article. This is a better practice from a copyright point of view, and helps reveal usage of resources, which informs subscription renewals and cancellations.
When is linking OK?
When is linking not OK?
Information presented in this box is adapted from Linking to Copyrighted Materials by the Digital Media Law Project, hosted by the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, CC-BY-NC-SA.
One strategy for avoiding potentially complicated copyright problems is to identify content that may be freely used, either because it's in the public domain (no copyright) or because it is licensed for reuse.