There are many pedagogical and technical issues that make the shift from in-person to remote teaching challenging, but for once, copyright is not a big additional area of worry! Most of the legal issues are the same in both contexts. If it was okay to do in class, it is often okay to do online, especially when your online access is limited to the same enrolled students.
(This document is evolving and subject to change. Last updated March 13, 2020.)
- 1 Class Sessions: Recording video of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc.
- 2 Course readings, media assignments, and other resources outside of class
Class Sessions: Recording video of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc.
The bulk of remote teaching will look just like your regular class – you’ll be sharing a whiteboard (or substitute!), slides, images and documents, course readings, and perhaps audio and video clips. You may also be recording your class for asynchronous access, and making the recording available to students for later viewing. These guidelines apply to converting residential instruction to remote teaching:
If it was legal to show slide images in class, it is likely legal to show them to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos. This may be a surprise if you have heard that there is a big difference between class lecture slides and online conference slides – but the issue is usually less offline versus online, than a restricted versus an unrestricted audience. As long as your new course video is being shared through course websites limited to the same enrolled students, the legal issues are fairly similar.
Many instructors routinely post a copy of their slides in Canvas as a file for students to access after in-person course meetings, which also likely doesn’t present any new issues after online course meetings.
In-lecture use of audio or video
Playing copyrighted audio or video sourced from physical media during an in-person class session is legal under a provision of copyright law called the “Face-to-Face Teaching Exemption.” For online class sessions, copyright law permits playing portions of an audio or video work in amounts comparable to that which is typically played during an in-person class session. In this sense, the provisions of copyright law for teaching with audio and video content are equivalent for in-person and online class sessions. However, if the video shown during an online class session is sourced from a physical video (such as a DVD) protected by technology that controls access to copyrighted works, the law permits showing only short portions of that video in an online class session. Find more resources on making clips here and here.
Where to post your videos
There may be some practical differences in outcomes depending on where you post new course videos – on the University’s Kaltura platform it is easy to control access at the level of individual videos, and to connect to your course in Canvas. You also can post video to YouTube , and the same basic legal provisions apply even on YouTube. However, it is more likely that videos posted on YouTube may encounter some automated copyright enforcement, such as a takedown notice, or disabling of included audio or video content. These automated enforcement tools are often incorrect when they flag audio, video, or images included in instructional videos.
Course readings, media assignments, and other resources outside of class
Hopefully, by mid-semester, your students have already received access to all assigned reading materials. If you want to share additional readings with them as you revise instructional plans – or if you want students to share more resources with each other in an online discussion board, keep in mind some simple guidelines:
If students can use publicly available online content to complete their assignments, then linking in Canvas to that content (for example, news websites, online videos, etc.) is rarely a copyright issue. (Better not to link to third-party content that looks obviously infringing itself – Joe Schmoe’s YouTube video of the entire “Black Panther” movie is probably not a good thing to link to. But Sara Someone’s 2-minute video of herself and her best friend talking over a few of the pivotal scenes may be fair use, and is not something you should worry about linking to.
Linking to subscription content through by Libraries is also a great option – a lot of our subscription content will have DOIs, PURLs, or other “permalink” options, all of which should work even for off-campus users. For assistance linking to any particular libraries subscription content, check out the library resources here. The only database content you should NOT link to directly is Harvard Business content – ask a Business Liaison Librarian for help on this.
Check VitalSource Free E-textbook Access (free access from Barnes & Noble) and the Libraries Catalog to determine if the materials are available to students – the Libraries has been licensing hundreds of e-textbooks, when available, for use in your courses.
Making copies of new materials for students (by downloading and uploading files, or by scanning from physical documents) can present some copyright issues, but they’re not different from those involved in deciding whether to share something online with your students when you are meeting in-person. It’s better not to make copies of entire works – but most instructors don’t do that! Copying portions of works to share with students will often be fair use, and at times (especially in unusual circumstances, or with works that aren’t otherwise commercially available) it may even be fair use to make lengthier copies.
Penn State policy affirms that it is an instructors right and responsibility to make their own decisions about when they think they can make copies for students. Libraries staff members can help you understand the relevant issues and the University will back up instructors making informed and reasonable decisions on these issues.
Where an instructor doesn’t feel comfortable relying on fair use, your liaison librarian may be able to suggest alternative content that is already online through library subscriptions, or publicly available content.
If an instructor has assigned audio or video content for study outside of class and that content is not already available to the students online, please note that the Libraries provide quite a bit of licensed streaming video content, which you are welcome to use in your online course. The Libraries also already have subscriptions to a significant set of streaming audio options for Penn State users. Please contact your liaison librarian or the Libraries’ Music & Media Center for help determining if the audio or video content you need for teaching is available through the Libraries. If it is not, the Libraries may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media.
Video content distributed exclusively by commercial streaming providers such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+ can be used for teaching if you and your students have your own personal accounts with those providers.
Ownership of online course materials
Penn State’s Copyright Ownership Policy affirms that faculty members own the copyright in their scholarly works, subject to the Open Access License. Ownership of the copyright in instructional content varies. Typically, copyright ownership of such works generally rests with the creator(s) unless their creation is directed by the University, or is subject to a sponsor’s agreement that provides for a different ownership. University-directed works are those created at the specific direction of a University unit for the University’s ownership and use. Instructional Intellectual Property will be deemed a University-directed work if it is created pursuant to a written agreement between the faculty member or staff member and the University unit or if the work is considered University-directed by the standing policy of the unit. [IP01]
University policies also affirm that students own the copyright in their own coursework, subject to few exceptions. Instructors can require them to submit it in particular formats, but the students continue to own their works unless a separate agreement is signed by the student.
More Questions? Need help?
Contact The Office of Scholarly Communications and Copyright for further information or assistance.
Adapted from “Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online” by Nancy Sims, University of Minnesota Libraries, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.