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Copyright for Faculty

Copyright overview


VCU Libraries provides faculty, researchers, and students with informative resources that can help guide them in the responsible use of copyrighted works and encourage them to exercise their fair use rights. VCU Libraries makes every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but does not offer it as counsel or legal advice. For legal advice, please consult the Office of University Counsel. 


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Frances Maloy
Schaffer Library

Copyright and Course Materials

Tips for navigating copyright and course materials:

  • Use course materials that don't come with copyright issues.  See this guide created by Virginia Commonwealth University on Open educational resources (OER).  OERs are licensed in a way that permits you to share them with students without restriction, and in many cases, you can edit and tailor the resources to fit your course.
  • When possible, link to a resource rather than making a copy. However, don't link to things that you know are illegally made copies. This is also true for library resources. Some publishers have terms and conditions that are more restrictive than others, so it's best across the board to link to library resources rather than downloading and sharing copies.


Fair Use for Teaching

You may be familiar with a copyright "rule" that says sharing one chapter of a book or 10% of a work is not infringement. However, this is not a true rule you can rely on. It is not recognized by courts, and it not a substitute for a fair use analysis, which must always be done on a case-by-case basis.

To share copies of copyrighted works in the classroom or online (like through Nexus), it is best practice to perform a fair use analysis and keep a copy of your analysis (like a fair use checklist) on hand.

The University of Georgia System has developed a fair use checklist that applies well to teaching and course materials. This checklist can be used to assist you as you determine whether or not your proposed use falls under fair use.

Face-to-Face Instruction Exceptions

Face-to-face instruction exceptions (17 U.S. Code § 110(1)) permit the performance and display of copyrighted works without permission or payment when all of the following requirements are met:

  1. The instruction must occur in a place dedicated to instruction where the teaching and learning takes place at the same time (such as a classroom). 
  2. The instruction must occur at a non-profit educational institution. 
  3. All materials used for performance or display must be legally acquired. These materials include works such as music, text, images, and video.

This exception does not, however, apply to making or distributing copies of copyrighted works. When making or distributing copies, instructors must rely on fair use or seek permission from copyright holders.

Virtual Instruction Exceptions

Virtual instruction is when a course is taught entirely online or when components of a face-to-face course are taught online (such as with Nexus) and may include digitally transmitting class materials to students. Transmitting performances or displays of copyrighted works may be authorized under the TEACH Act (17 U.S. Code § 110(1)), which was enacted to allow comparable instruction in the online environment as to what takes place in a traditional classroom or face-to-face instruction. 

The TEACH Act does not apply to materials shared online for supplementary reading, viewing, or listening. Instructors will need to rely on fair use for decisions about these materials.

There are numerous requirements for teaching, technology, and course materials that instructors must meet to qualify for the TEACH Act exceptions. 

See UNC Charlotte's TEACH Act Toolkit for more information.