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Copyright and Fair Use Guidelines

A brief overview of Copyright, Fair Use, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the TEACH Act.

Blackboard FAQs

Blackboard has the advantage of being a self-contained site, so it is more readily accessible for students and faculty. It is always best to link to a copyrighted item rather than to copy it, but not all support materials can be linked. Greenlease Library suggests that you link to subscription database materials whenever possible. If a reading is not linkable through a licensed database, faculty must run a fair use analysis and a take care of their own permissions and royalties for non-compliant copyrighted material. 

What is considered Fair Use when posting course materials?
This is a summary. 

  • a single chapter from a book
  • a single article from a periodical or newspaper
  • a single short story or short essay (less than 2,500 words)
  • one short poem (less than 250 words)
  • one chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book, periodical, or newspaper issue
  • all lecture notes, answer keys, tests, etc. that are owned by faculty
  • The Music Library Association has a helpful statement on the "Digital Transmission of Audio Reserves."

How do I provide links to databases?

Use the persistent link provided for each item in a database to direct students to electronic articles, images, or streaming media. In order to provide off-campus access, RU's proxy URL must be added to the front of the persistent link for some databases. For information on how to link to an article see the Faculty: How to Create Links to Library Resources Guide. Contact Jennifer Peters for help or additional information.

Can I load readings into Blackboard?

Yes, but uploading copyrighted readings into Blackboard does not change the necessity of running a Fair Use analysis, employing the TEACH Act or of seeking permissions when necessary. 

What is required when posting class readings?

  • Be sure posted copies carry a complete citation and a copyright notice ("This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code)"
  • Only copy the portion of the work that is necessary and no more for the intended use.
  • Only students enrolled in a course should have access to the Blackboard site. 

Can I reuse my readings semester after semester without permission?

There is no definitive answer. Repeated use of material might violate the spirit of fair use if the amount and market effect are sizeable.  When posting material in Blackboard faculty must weigh all the fair use factors. Bear in mind that obtaining permissions through the Copyright Clearance Center is, often, an easy process. In order to mitigate risk to the University, it is library policy to seek permission for material that is reused on reserve that the library does not own.

In Cambridge Univ. Press v. Becker, a federal district court sitting in Georgia rejected the Classroom Guidelines, which act as the source of the restriction on the reuse of copyrighted materials for e-reserves.  863 F.Supp.2d (N.D.Ga. 2012).  The case is most influential in the 11th Circuit (Alabama, Florida & Georgia), however it will also likely have highly persuasive value in other jurisdictions. 

A good, risk-free way to proceed is to use University licensed resources which contain copyright clearances.

Is scanning or digitizing my readings considered making a copy?

Yes. Library staff can scan documents. If the request for a scanned item exceeds Fair Use, Library staff can secure permission. 

What about using electronic reserves for music, audio or video recordings?

 This is a time when faculty are encouraged, whenever possible, to link to University licensed databases or resources such as:

The Guidelines for Educational Uses of Music lay out helpful detail.

What about using images, music, audio or video recordings in Blackboard?

The use of these media in Blackboard involve the issues of performance and display in digital transmissions. Faculty may refer to either the  TEACH Act page  or the Fair Use page for guidance.  Some Fair Use answers appear above. Fair Use in most cases would not grant more freedoms than the Teach Act. (Kevin Smith)

Other suggested methods for protecting copyrighted images or photos include:

  • the use of low resolution images and thumbnails
  • non-printable PDF
  • digital watermarks
  • disabling the right click copy function
  • overlaying the image with a transparent GIF
  • using the image as a background in a table or
  • using digital rights management
  • For details see "Tips and Techniques to Protect Images on the Internet."

When considering the use of media in online teaching, technological protection measures or digital rights management may come into play. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act carries strict prohibitions against overriding TPMs and DRM. See the DMCA page for a brief explanation.

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 Rockhurst University Library · 1100 Rockhurst Road · Kansas City, MO 64110 · 816-501-4116