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Copyright and Fair Use

A Guide to Information and Resources Related to Copyright and Fair Use

Basics for Instructors

Below are copyright basics and resources for instruction, especially face-to-face teaching with general concepts that are good to know.

Do you own your curricula? TTU policy (Operating Procedure 10.03) states that faculty have ownership over pedagogical works. This includes items such as textbooks, syllabi, course materials and lectures created by the instructor.  However, Texas Tech reserves the right to record lectures and make them available to registered students.

Copyright Resources for Teaching

Copyright law provides a classroom exception in Section 110(1) that allows instructors to display or show entire copyrighted works during the course of a face-to-face classroom session. This exception exists independently of fair use and may be a more applicable option for exposing students to copyrighted material. 

Keep in mind that the exception only applies to face-to-face instruction. Separate rules apply for material posted online for courses. 

Copyright Resources for Online Teaching

What is the TEACH Act?

The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act, more commonly known as the TEACH Act, updated U.S. copyright law regarding the display and transmission of copyright protected materials by accredited, nonprofit educational institutions and is especially relevant for the use of teaching materials online. 

TEACH Act Conditions:

•  You can perform a nondramatic literary work, a nondramatic musical work, or reasonable portions of any other work.  

•  You can display any other work in an amount comparable to that typically displayed in a live classroom setting.

•  You cannot use works produced or marketed primarily for performance/display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks orunlawfully made copies.

•  The works used must be under the actual supervision of an instructor as part of a class session.

•  The works must be used as part of systematic mediated instructional activities and directly related and of material assistance to the teaching content.

•  You may digitize an analog work if no digital version is available to the institution or the digital version is locked to prevent TEACH uses.

•  The transmission (of the performance or display) must be made solely for and reception limited to students enrolled in the course, i.e., access controls.

•  You must institute technological measures that reasonably prevent retention in accessible form for longer than a class session (this means prevent printing, saving, downloading, etc.) Also referred to as "downstream controls".

•  You must not interfere with technological measures that prevent retention and dissemination put there by the copyright holder.

•  Copyright notice must be provided to students.

Linking Material vs. Posting PDFs

Articles and other materials from library databases are subject to license agreements that specify how database contents may be used. For information on how database materials can be used, including whether it is permitted to post PDFs of materials on classes, contact Ask-A-Librarian.

Generally, all database materials can be made available through Blackboard by linking to the appropriate database. Linking is just as easy as attaching a PDF, but it is a better option for providing access to licensed material while staying within copyright and license terms. You can learn how to provide permalinks to database articles that your students can access throughout the semester from your librarian.

You also have the option of creating an e-reserve of database links using Course Reserves.This service creates a storehouse of permalinks outside of Blackboard for students to access licensed reading material for the course.

When there is no license agreement specifying how materials can be used, the U.S. Copyright Act applies to posting PDFs of library materials on Blackboard. Copyright law permits posting in three situations:

  1. the work is in the public domain 
  2. you have permission from the copyright owner 
  3. your use qualifies as Fair Use 


This section of the guide was adapted from information from Brett D. Currier, J.D., Ball State University Libraries, Brigham Young University at Idaho,  University of Washington Libraries and the Ohio State University.

This adaptation, created by Camille Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

 Creative Commons License