Copyright and Fair Use: Common Scenarios - Distance Education

Information on copyright law and fair use in an academic setting.

Distance Education

Learning Management System - Blackboard

SCENARIO 19: An instructor downloads an ebook from a library subscribed collection and wants to upload the ebook to his Blackboard course site.

FAIR USE?  It would depend on the user agreement the library signed with the vendor providing the ebooks.  To be safe, the instructor should place  a    link to the ebook in the course site and not upload the entire book.

SCENARIO 20: Instructor wishes to place the full-text articles he downloaded from a library subscribed database to his Blackboard course site for use by the students enrolled in that class only.

FAIR USE?   As with the ebook situation, some vendor agreements would not consider this fair use, but the instructor could place a link to the article(s) that requires the students to access the article(s) independently via the subscription database.

Videotape of Telecourse

SCENARIO 21: Institution A creates a telecourse. The course contains copyrighted text, video, audio, and photographs relevant to the class. If Institution A did not obtain permission to use the copyrighted materials, can Institution A show the videotape of the telecourse to students who have signed up for a telecourse at Institution A?

FAIR USE? Yes. Most experts believe that showing the videotape to students enrolled in the telecourse is a fair use.

Videotape of Telecourse Shown at Other Institutions

Assume same facts as in SCENARIO 21. If Institution A did not obtain permission to use the copyrighted materials, can students at Institution B enroll and receive credit for the course at Institution B?

FAIR USE? Yes. Most experts believe that showing the videotape to students enrolled in the telecourse is a fair use.

Telecourse via the Internet

Assume same facts as in SCENARIO 21. What if the telecourse is transmitted via the Internet?

FAIR USE? If the telecourse is broadcast and there is open access, the audience is no longer clearly defined. A rebroadcast over the Internet to a global audience is probably not a fair use. A restricted broadcast of the telecourse is a fair use.

Remote Access of Searchable Database via the Internet

SCENARIO 22: A faculty member at Institution C creates a searchable database of copyrighted materials. The database is used as a part of a distance learning course and is available on the institution's webserver. Students enrolled in the course access the course materials from home, work, and other areas that are not traditional classrooms. Access to the database is controlled and available only to students enrolled in the class. The faculty member did not obtain permission to use the copyrighted materials.

FAIR USE? Yes. So long as the materials are being accessed for educational instruction and access remains controlled.

Student Project for Distribution on the Internet

SCENARIO 23: A student is taking a distance learning class in which the instructor has required that a particular assignment be created for unlimited distribution on the web. A student includes an audio segment of copyrighted music (video, news broadcast, non-dramatic literary work).

FAIR USE? No. Since the teacher specifically stated that the project is being created for distribution over the web, this is not a fair use of any of the listed copyrighted materials and permission should be obtained.

Student Project on the Internet with Restricted Access

Same facts as SCENARIO 23, however, access to each student's Web page will be restricted to other students in the class.

FAIR USE? Yes.

Use of Commercial Videotape/DVD

SCENARIO 24: An instructor is teaching a class delivered on cable television or via two-way interactive video (GSAMS), and she uses a commercial videotape (either in its entirely or a portion), which is sold for instructional purposes, during a class to illustrate a concept covered in the discussion.

FAIR USE? Yes. She is using a commercial video for its intended purpose. Moreover, it is being used to illustrate a concept connected with the class discussion.

Same facts as SCENARIO 24, but the class is distributed over the Internet.

FAIR USE? This is a fair use only if access over the Internet is restricted (i.e. content management system such as Blackboard).

Same facts as SCENARIO 24, but the videotape is not "educational" in orientation.

FAIR USE? Distribution over two-way interactive video or cable television controlled by the institution would be fair use, as would restricted distribution over the Internet. Unrestricted distribution over the Internet is not a fair use.

Taping On-Air Programming

SCENARIO 25: A faculty member records a segment from a television program. The segment will be shown in a GSAMS class the following day. The remote sites will record the class in the event of technical difficulties.

FAIR USE? Yes.

Retention of Tape of On-Air Programming

Assume there are technical difficulties in SCENARIO 25 and the remote sites replay the tape containing the program segment.

FAIR USE? Yes. The use is for instructional purposes.

Retention of Videotape of Copyrighted Material

SCENARIO 26: Institution E records a two-way interactive video (GSAMS) class that contains copyrighted works. The tapes are kept for the entire quarter to serve as review for students who may have missed a class or as backup in the event of technical difficulties. At the end of the term, the tapes are erased.

FAIR USE? Yes.

Use of a Videotape of a GSAMS Class Containing Copyrighted Material

What if the professor who conducted the class in SCENARIO 26 decides to show the tape to her continuing education class (or to a community group)?

FAIR USE? Continuing Education class, Yes.  Showing the tapes to her continuing education class is fair use if she is using the material for educational purposes and no admission fee is charged. Showing the tape to a community group may or may not be a fair use. The fact that the user of the tapes is a professor does not make the showing of the tape to a community group an educational use. One would need to conduct a fair use analysis.

Rebroadcast of a Videotape of a Two-Way Interactive Video (GSAMS) Class Containing Copyrighted Material

SCENARIO 27: Institution E records a two-way interactive video class that contains copyrighted text, video, audio, and photographs that are relevant to the class. Institution E rebroadcasts the videotape to a class at Institution F.

FAIR USE?  Yes. It is fair use since instruction is occurring.

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