Copyright Concerns & Remote Teaching

There’s a lot of pedagogical and technical issues that make the shift from in -person to remote teaching challenging. But, for once, copyright should not be a huge additional worry!

The information provided herein is adapted from “Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online” by Nancy Sims @CopyrightLibn, University of Minnesota Libraries, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

This document is evolving and subject to change. Last updated  March 11, 2020.

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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 you created the slide images or have permission to use them in teaching, then you can show them to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos. If you did not create the slide images and you have not obtained permission to use them, as long as your new course video is being shared through course websites limited to the same enrolled students and will be taken down within a reasonable time following completion of the course, the risk is not high.

If you decide to post a copy of your slides in CCLE as a file for students to access after in-person course meetings, this is likely consistent with fair use as long as CCLE does not permit downloading or transferring copies to make available to others outside the course.

Here, the differences between remote and in-person teaching can be a bit more complex. Playing audio or video off of physical media during an in-person class session is most likely legal at UCLA under a provision of copyright law often referred to as the "face-to-face teaching classroom use” 
exemption. However, that exemption doesn't cover playing the same media online. If you can limit audio and video use for your course to relatively brief clips, you may be able to include those in lecture recordings or live-casts under the copyright’s fair use provision. For media use longer than brief clips, you may need to have students independently access the content outside of your lecture videos. Some further options are outlined below.

There may be some practical differences in legal outcomes depending on where you post new course videos. On the University’s CCLE platform, it is easy to control access at the level of individual videos and to connect to your course in CCLE.

If other options are not available and you determine it is necessary, you also can post class-related videos to UCLA’s YouTube Channel, but the risks are much higher posting content on YouTube.

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 outlined below.

Making copies of new materials for students (by downloading and uploading files, or by scanning from physical documents) can present some copyright issues.  However, these issues are not significantly different from those involved in deciding whether to make copies available remotely for students participating in in-person classes. It's better not to make copies of entire works, and most instructors don't do that! Copying relevant portions of works to share with students for pedagogical purposes will often be deemed fair use.

UCLA and University of California policy affirms that it is an instructor’s right and responsibility to make reasonable and good faith decisions about then they think they can make copies for students. Library staff members can help you understand the relevant issues and the University will back up instructors making informed and reasonable decisions on these issues. For more information on this topic, please contact UCLA Library and see UC’s systemwide “Copyright and Fair Use” policy available here.

Where an instructor doesn't feel comfortable relying on fair use, a subject matter specialist librarian may be able to suggest alternative content that is already online through library subscriptions or publicly licensed content. The Libraries may also be able to help you seek formal copyright permission to provide copies to students, but there may be issues with getting permissions on short timelines.

Showing an entire movie or film or musical work remotely may be a bit more of an issue than playing it in class. But there may be options for your students to access it independently online. The Libraries already have quite a bit of licensed streaming content, which you’re welcome to use in your remote course. See UCLA Library.

Libraries also already have subscriptions to a significant set of streaming audio options for UCLA users.

We may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media, but standard commercial streaming options like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+ may sometimes be the easiest or only available option. Students may have their own accounts or have to subscribe to them. (For exclusive content, the commercial services may be the only option.) Additionally, you may consider digital content services offered by UCLA’s Instructional Media Lab.

If you are offering the cou rse through CCLE or other UCLA learning management systems, the TEACH Act exemption for remote teaching may apply. While the requirements of the TEACH ACT are lengthy, the essentials are not difficult (see TEACH Act Checklist). When you limit the content to students in your course and are providing the content at your direction and only for the duration of the course, using clips of reasonable and limited portions of dramatic, literary, musical, or audiovisual work likely will be fine. Additionally, use of content solely for education use in a manner restricted to students enrolled in a course and expressly to address the current pandemic crisis will present a strong argument for a fair use exemption.

Whenever possible you should use UCLA-licensed or publicly licensed materials (such as Creative Commons licensed content).

Good sources for such content can be found:

Pursuant to University Policy course materials created by a faculty member are generally owned by the faculty. See UC 2003 Policy on Ownership of Course Materials.

Courses being taught remotely solely in response to COVID-19 are, understood to be created without exceptional University Resources for purposes of this policy.

It is recommended that you only post course materials, including audio/video recordings of lectures and other content, on UCLA course management platforms, such as CCLE and in accordance with all guidelines provided by the academic senate.

If you decide to post elsewhere, here are some additional steps you can take:

  1. Post your materials only on a platform that is password-protected and accessible only to registered and enrolled students. The materials should also only be generally available for the length of the course, or some reasonable time thereafter to permit time for review, testing and evaluation.
  2. Advise students that your course materials and your course presentations are protected and that students generally may not share them except with another student who is registered and enrolled in this course.
  3. Include language on every page of your course materials (in a header or footer)that they are protected by copyright:

“© Faculty Name 2020. This content is protected and may not be shared, uploaded or distributed.”

This protection may prevent the unauthorized upload of materials through filtering software at unaffiliated commercial educational technology websites.

Contact UCLA Library for further information or assistance.

In addition, the University of California’s “Copyright” website contains a lot of other useful copyright information.