This guide is meant to support instructors in a variety of disciplines to deliver dynamic teaching materials and enhance the curriculum and student learning by directing them to freely available open educational resources, media, tools, apps and other content, as well as providing guidance to instructors on intellectual property concerns in the online teaching environment. General resources on this page are likely to be of some use to teaching in most colleges and programs. For more specific resources, navigate to the colleges in the left-hand column, then browse by department. Search the entire guide for specific content. Please contact the guide owners to suggest additional content. See how we selected our resources.
Open Educational Resources (OERs)
Open Books, Open Media, Open Textbooks and other teaching materials
Meta sites, source lists and guides
Teaching Support Resources, Guidance, Training and Tools
What types of work are copyright-protected?
In the United States, any work of original authorship (a work created with a modicum of originality) which is fixed in a tangible form of expression is automatically copyrighted! Registration with the U.S. Copyright Office is not required (though it optionally offers certain additional protections).
What is a tangible form of expression?
Any medium that can last over time, if created lawfully. For example, a printed book, a diary, a notebook, a sound recording, a digital image, a photograph, a recorded lecture. (e.g., not a live speech, a streamed (but not recorded) lecture, ) See a discussion here.
Examples of copyrighted works include:
• Literary works
• Musical works, including any accompanying words
• Dramatic works, including any accompanying music
• Pantomimes and choreographic works
• Pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works
• Motion pictures and other audiovisual works
• Sound recordings, which are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds
• Architectural works See U.S. Copyright Office's Copyright Basics, Circular 1 for details.
What types of work are free from copyright protection or not copyrightable?
Copyright law expressly excludes copyright protection for “any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied.”
How long does copyright protection last?
That varies. It depends on when the work was created and whether the copyright was renewed. See the handy Copyright Slider (requires Adobe Flash).
What are the exclusive rights of copyright holders?
Main provisions for limitations on exclusive rights in U.S. Copyright Law of interest to educators
17 U.S. Code § 108 (Libraries)
Traditionally, face-to-face classroom spaces have been legally exempt (17 U.S. Code § 110) from many* of the "exclusive rights" restrictions of copyright law. This means that instructors may display or perform copyrighted works without prior permission or without invoking fair use. The educational institution must be non-profit, the work used must be directly related to the instruction and limited to students enrolled in the course, and the work must have been lawfully made and acquired. These are powerful rights that translate largely to the remote environment.
* exemption does not include making copies without permission, or creating a derivative work from the original work. However, the U.S. Copyright Office's Circular 21 (popularly known as the "Classroom Guidelines" ) called for allowing photocopying for the class in limited circumstances if the conditions of "brevity" and "spontaneity" are met. These are merely guidelines, however, and are not legally binding, but they may offer insight into the original intent of Congress in envisioning the fair use doctrine. And they do NOT apply to coursepacks.
Note that interlibrary loan articles also fall into this category of non-exempt materials; they are meant for individual study, scholarship or research only. No copying or distribution.
TEACHING IN AN ONLINE ENVIRONMENT
The TEACH Act (codified in 17 U.S. Code § 110 (2)) was enacted in 2002 primarily to balance the rights of copyright holders with the new and emerging needs of learners and educators in an online environment.
In short, it provides more latitude for educators in an online environment to provide copyrighted educational materials, provided certain criteria are met:
The provisions of the TEACH Act do not extend to course reserves, coursepacks, document delivery, interlibrary loan materials or licensed textbooks, and generally do not extend to conversion of materials from analog to digital except under strictly authorized uses or under extraordinary circumstances.
Download a more detailed 2-page summary of the TEACH Act from the Copyright Clearance Center.
Fair use is a provision within U.S. copyright law (17 U.S. Code § 107) meant to promote freedom of expression and uphold the main purpose of copyright by providing latitude for the use of a rights-protected works under certain limited circumstances and "purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use)." These are typical teaching scenarios. However, before proceeding with use of a copyrighted work,
It is generally advised to 1) search for the copyright status of the work; 2) locate the rights-holder, and 3) seek permission before resorting to a fair use claim. Note that the licensing of content will nearly always trump any fair use claim of that content. So: be certain that the work you are seeking to use does not fall under a license agreement. See the next tab on seeking permission.
Notwithstanding these caveats and restrictions, fair use is a legitimate avenue to take in most teaching situations.
Four quick questions to help you determine whether it's OK to use a copyrighted work without permission:
It is important to remember that these factors are meant to be weighed against each other and no one factor, if met, is absolutely reliable as a determinant of free and clear fair use. Neither is it absolute that meeting all 4 factors automatically guarantees a fair use case. Nor is it absolutely true that meeting only 1 factor will automatically weigh the whole case against fair use.
See IUPUI's Fair Use Checklist for further guidance.
If you feel you do not have a clear-cut fair use case in the classroom, how do you go about seeking permission to use a work?
1. Determine the copyright status of a work (see where to search for copyright status)
2. Contact the copyright owner
3. State your request in as detailed a manner as possible
See U.S. Copyright Office Circular 22, "How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a Work," and U.S. Copyright Office circular, "How to Obtain Permission" for further details.
The Copyright Crash Course library guide also has a great page on locating rights owners and seeking permission.
Learn where you may need permission to share copyrighted content. To name a few: class handouts, electronic reserves, internet posts, print and electronic coursepacks, web content. And regarding fair use, "Even if it's for educational purposes, no particular use automatically qualifies as fair use." Learn more in this short video from the Copyright Clearance Center.
More takeaways from this video:
More from the Copyright Clearance Center:
Website and resource selections made to this library guide were based on the following criteria:
Generally not included in this guide: