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Online Teaching & Learning Guide: Copyright for Distance Education

Copyright for Distance Education at JMU - COVID-19 Edition

Shifting from in-person to online teaching comes with pedagogical and technical challenges, but copyright should not be one of them -- the legal issues related to copyright are similar in both contexts. Whatever you were doing in class is most likely fine to do online, particularly when online access is limited to enrolled students through Canvas.

However, there may be a few differences to consider. Here are some tips related to copyright in the context of distance education.

Multimedia concerns: recording video of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc. 

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, as long as you are doing this through Canvas to the students enrolled in your class.

In-lecture use of audio or video 

If you limit usage to relatively brief clips, you may be able to include those in lecture recordings or live-casts under the copyright provision called "fair use." For media use longer than brief clips, you may need to have students independently access the content outside of your lecture videos. In such circumstances, you may find helpful resources listed within the JMU Libraries guide to Free Media for Creative Use and the list of licensed media resources available to JMU students, faculty, and staff.

Making and posting videos 

If you want to create educational videos (e.g. recorded lectures), JMU Libraries Video Management Services provides comprehensive guidance in the licensed tools and resources JMU has acquired to support this work, and provides solutions to both making your video, and sharing it with your students. To learn how to make videos, visit our Record Lectures page on this guide.

Course readings and other resources 

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:

Sharing copies 

It’s best not to make copies of entire works, but fair use regulations often allow copying portions of works to share with students.

If you don't feel comfortable relying on fair use, your department's liaison librarian can suggest alternative content that is already available through library subscriptions, open educational resources, or publicly available content. We may also be able to help you seek formal copyright permissions to provide copies to students, but there may be issues with getting permissions on short timelines.

Ownership of online course materials 

JMU Policy 1107 governs ownership of materials created by JMU faculty for distance education. See section 5.2(3): "Distance learning materials and courseware created by faculty without the substantial use of university resources remain the property of the faculty member." 

Instructors may wish to inform or remind students about classroom policies regarding sharing course materials. For instance, if an instructor does not want students to share slide decks or study guides outside of the course management system, the instructor should remind students of this, let students know they are not to distribute course materials, and may wish to include notices about this in course content. 

The current crisis 

As institutions around the country work to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, library copyright specialists have published a growing body of supporting material to help folks deal specifically with emerging copyright issues. For additional information, these resources may be helpful: 

More questions? Need help? 

See our copyright guide, contact the JMU Libraries Copyright Coordinator, Howard S. Carrier, or contact your liaison librarian for assistance.

Adapted from "Rapidly Shifting Your Course from In-Person to Remote," by Nancy Sims, University of Minnesota Libraries, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. Improved by collaboration from too many wonderful colleagues to count.