Copyright Resources: COVID19 and Online Instruction

This guide contains information and resources to support KU students, faculty, and staff in their efforts to use and create copyrighted works in teaching and learning, research, and creative activity.

Copyright and Teaching in a Crisis

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 Copyright Support

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 for assistance. Our team includes:

  • Josh Bolick,, Scholarly Communication Librarian
  • Marianne Reed,, Digital Initiatives Manager
  • Ada Emmett, Director, Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright

We are not attorneys and do not offer legal advice.

Fair Use Resources

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:

Additional Perspectives

Colleagues at other institutions have developed insightful guidance for instructors interested in reading more deeply:

Copyright and Linking

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 providing a link to the front page or any sub-page of legally hosted content, including content on the open web as well as content behind a log-in (restricting access to users with appropriate credentials), such as articles in library databases;
  • When embedding content to represent it on a page, such as using YouTube embed codes or "preview" functions on social media. In these cases, it appears the content is hosted on the page itself, but in reality, it is displayed from the source, or streamed.

When is linking not OK?

  • When linking to infringing content, AKA contributory copyright infringement; don't link to known or obviously infringing content, such as pirated films, illegal copies of commercial textbooks, or sites like Sci-Hub (a piracy site for scholarly journal articles);
  • When linking to circumvention technology proscribed by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA); Section 1201 of the DMCA makes it illegal to traffic in technology that enables others to circumvent technological measures put in place by copyright holders to control access to or uses of their copyright work.

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.


Finding Usable Content

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.

  • Use Google to find reusable web content: Google enables searching by "Usage rights" from the Advanced Search and Advanced Image Search pages, which can reveal images and other web content that may be reused. Terms of use, such as a requirement of attribution, may apply.
  • Creative Commons (CC): Creative Commons is a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the depth and breadth of creative works available for others to legally build upon and to share through the maintenance and application of open licenses. CC-licensed content is reusable, subject to requirements for attribution (BY), limits on commercial use (NC), derivative licensing (SA), and ability to create and share derivatives (ND).
    CC Search is a tool that allows openly licensed and public domain images to be discovered and used.
  • CAA Image Sources and Rights Clearance Agencies: The College Art Association maintains this list of sources of free images suitable for use in scholarly publications and teaching, in addition to prominent fee-based image banks (such as Getty Images).
  • Open Image Collections: The Open Image Collections is a collection of digital image sources suitable for teaching, learning, and research. Sources include museum digital collections, stock images, photo archives, design resources and image search engines.