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Guide to Hybrid & Online Teaching at JMU

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, as 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.

Images, 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 assistance with creating educational videos (e.g. recorded lectures), contact the Video Management Services team in JMU Libraries. They provide comprehensive guidance in JMU-licensed tools and resources, video creation, and sharing your video with students. Visit our Record Lectures page to learn how to make your own videos.

Course readings and other resources

If you want to share additional readings with your students as you revise your 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: 

Questions? Need help?

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


This page was 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. It was improved by collaboration from too many wonderful colleagues to count.

Find more topics in this guide on the A-Z Page List or in the menu.