Skip to Main Content

Copyright: Faculty

This guide provides information (not legal advice) to support NWC community decision-making in the use of copyright protected material in research, learning, and teaching.

Purpose of Guide and Disclaimer

This guide intends to refer NWC community users to accurate information. However, information received from the NWC Library or the NWC Copyright Librarian is neither legal advice/opinion nor legal counsel to the college or any members of the NWC community. Please contact the NWC Office of General Counsel or NWC Staff Judge Advocate's Office for NWC-related legal advice and interpretation of the law, or personal counsel for personal legal advice. The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by NWC of sites or the information, products, or services contained therein, nor does NWC exercise editorial control over the information found at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this guide. U.S. copyright law is subject to change.

Faculty & Copyright

Copyright Policy, Instructions, and Legal Code for NWC Faculty and Staff

Per NWC Copyright Policy (pending approval), faculty and staff are individually responsible for following all copyright instructions and legal code in the scope of their work at the college. Please familiarize yourself with these copyright instructions and legal code:

The NWC Copyright Office found within the NWC Library is happy to assist you with copyright informational coaching and education during your time here at the college. Please be aware that the Copyright Librarian cannot provide legal guidance. Email contact: 

Face-to-Face Teaching

U.S. copyright law permits teachers and students to make certain uses of copyrighted works in face-to-face teaching. This is codified in 17 U.S.C. § 110(1). The copyrighted work must be lawfully obtained. Plagiarism is not a part of copyright law, but full attribution/citation is a widely-accepted academic best practice.

17 U.S.C. § 110(1) provides that the following is not a violation of copyright:

"performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made..."

Essentially, what this means is that classroom teachers can use copyrighted materials in the physical classroom if they are at a nonprofit educational institution and are performing or displaying the item (for example, showing it on a smartboard). This exemption does not apply if you are making copies of the item or distributing it. If your use meets these conditions, you may perform or display the work without violating copyright, as long as you are using a lawful copy. Permission from the rightsholder is not necessary. A classroom teacher can show a lawfully obtained movie or image or project on a screen a page from a book for teaching purposes in a live, face-to-face classroom with the course's enrolled students only.

No specific type of work is excluded from this exemption (though anything you perform or display must be from a lawfully made/obtained copy). The House Report accompanying this section of the law provides that instructors and their students are in the duration of a face-to-face class time "free to perform or display anything in class as long as the other conditions of the clause are met. They could read aloud from copyrighted text material, act out a drama, play or sing a musical work, perform a motion picture or filmstrip, or display text or pictorial material to the class by means of a projector."  

This does not cover online or hybrid teaching. There is another provision of the Copyright Act that can apply to online teaching (although there are many additional and strict requirements for faculty, for the institution, and technologically to meet for it to apply); please see §110(2) below for more details. Classroom instructors who do not meet this online teaching criteria in the 17 U.S.C. § 110(2) exception (such as online educators) or professors who wish to make a copy of a chapter of a book to distribute to the class should still consider the fair use statutory exemption. Fair use may permit the use and that determination should be made on a case-by-case basis each and every time a work is desired to be used.

Does the § 110(1) teaching exception apply to online courses (for example, one held over Zoom or in Microsoft Teams)? 

Unfortunately, no. The exception in § 110(1) of the Copyright Act specifically applies to "face-to-face" teaching not online teaching. Online classes (on Zoom or in Microsoft Teams) are not considered an extension of face-to-face physical classroom settings. In the case of online teaching, in general, one can make a fair use assessment (§ 107) or follow the requirements found in § 110(2).

Does the "face-to-face" teaching exception apply to making copies of documents for class? 

No. It allows you to display images or audiovisual materials in class only for the duration of the class. It does not allow you to make copies of copyrighted materials. In the case of making copies for class, make a fair use assessment (§ 107).

Distance/Online or Hybrid Teaching

U.S. copyright law has a provision, which is sometimes referred to as the TEACH Act, codified in 17 U.S.C. § 110(2). This provision gives instructors the right to use works for distance learning without permission under certain specific circumstances. All of the following circumstances must be met in order to rely on the TEACH Act exemption for online teaching.

If you:

  • are, or are acting under direction or actual supervision of, an instructor in a class session offered by an accredited nonprofit educational institution or governmental body;
  • are using the material as an integral part of a class session (not supplemental or optional materials);
  • are using the material that is directly related to and of material assistance to your teaching content (you will directly discuss/comment on the material); and
  • are using a copy of the work that was prepared lawfully,
  • and the copyrighted work:
    • was not “produced or marketed primarily for performance or display as part of mediated instructional activities transmitted via digital networks;” (e.g., textbooks or workbooks) and
    • will be transmitted solely to students officially enrolled in the course for which the transmission is made or officers or employees of governmental bodies as a part of their official duties or employment,

and your use is:

  • performing a nondramatic literary work (e.g., reading fiction, nonfiction, a short story, a reference work, or a poem aloud);
  • performing a nondramatic musical work (e.g., playing instruments or singing a song);
  • performing a reasonable and limited amount of any other work (e.g., playing an excerpt from a motion picture or other audiovisual work); or
  • displaying any work in an amount comparable to what would be used in a live (face-to-face) classroom,

and your institution:

  • institutes a copyright policy;
  • provides information about copyright to faculty, students, and relevant staff members;
  • provides notice to students that materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection; and
  • if the transmission is digital, applies the required technological measures by reasonably preventing:
    • retention of the work in accessible form by recipients for longer than the class session, and
    • unauthorized further dissemination of the work to others;

then U.S. copyright law permits your use.

Why does the TEACH Act have so many requirements? 

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2001 (the TEACH Act) amended § 110 of the U.S. Copyright law in order to facilitate the growth of digital distance learning. The goal of the TEACH Act is to permit the use of materials in an online setting similar to the way materials are permitted to be used in a face-to-face classroom setting. The many restrictions that are in place with the TEACH Act are designed to mimic a traditional classroom setting where students can see or hear the works, such as a film being shown or an image being projected, while allowing students and instructors to benefit from advanced digital technologies but still safeguarding the rights of copyright owners.

In a traditional face-to-face classroom setting, students are able to access and experience material works during a class period, but their access to these materials ends when they walk out of the classroom. Duplicating this experience in a digital environment can make things trickier because technology makes it much easier to provide access to copyrighted works to larger groups of people (beyond just students enrolled in a class) and it makes it easier to facilitate the ongoing copying and sharing of those copyrighted works. With a click of a few buttons, a work may be shared openly online. This dissemination possibility is riskier for rightsholders and is the driving force behind the many requirements provided in the TEACH Act.  

Copyrighted materials displayed in an online class should not be available in electronic format online on the market. In that case, one should provide the link to those materials in Blackboard or Leganto to the course enrolled students. If one can adhere to the requirements found in the TEACH Act, best practices with online classes includes making sure the meeting is password protected, only  students registered for the class have access to the meeting platform, and the class should not be recorded nor disseminated when copyrighted materials are displayed.

What if I can't meet all the requirements of the TEACH Act?

You may consider fair use for your use of a work. If you are unable to make a strong argument that your use is a fair use, you must obtain permission from the rightsholder to use the work or purchase a license to an electronic version with unlimited users (if available).

TEACH Act § 110(2) Resources:

Copyright is an important consideration in the selection of course materials and making them available to your students. It is important to understand the copyright issues in both reproducing and distributing copyrighted material in the course of teaching, learning and scholarship.

U.S. copyright law governs both the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted material. The making of either a print or electronic copy, and the distribution of the copy by any means, constitute a reproduction and distribution that is governed by copyright law.

All items used for NWC courses (including on Blackboard and Leganto) must comply with U.S. copyright law, Naval Instructions, NWC vendor contracts, NWC Copyright Policy, and NWC Reserve Policy.

When providing copyrighted materials to students whether in print or digital format, educators must either secure permission for use or ensure that they are meeting in good faith the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. The copyright principles that apply to print materials in the course of teaching, learning and scholarship also apply to electronic materials. Permission may be required for the use of copyrighted materials even when they have already been posted elsewhere online.

Some Copyright Recommendations for Blackboard or Leganto Coursework

The decision to post a work on a course site involves legal questions about copyright. The guidelines below are meant to assist faculty in making their decisions. 

Post a work on a course site if:

Further Considerations:

  • All items posted to Blackboard or Leganto should be limited only to students enrolled in the course and only be available to students for the dates of that the academic year. The materials will be inactivated and removed from Blackboard or Leganto once the course is complete.
  • Blackboard and Leganto are not intended and should not be used to substitute for the purchase of complete textbooks or other course materials when they are available for purchase.
  • Give yourself enough time to be flexible: reconsider the need to digitize a print resource and find a library-licensed, public domain, or Creative Commons licensed full-text alternative. Please see the alternative resources page for other options.
  • All materials must be legally obtained.
    • The Library Reserves Technician can help you determine if a digital version of your desired work is available for library acquisition with unlimited concurrent users.
    • Downloaded copies from other libraries' electronic collections may not be used (this would likely breach their license contract terms).
    • Instructors should not direct or encourage students to access or print unauthorized copies of materials from unlawful sources.
    • Materials should be used at the request of the instructor for educational, non-commercial purposes and should correspond to course curricula as required or essential materials for the course being taught. This material will likely be used for course discussion or analysis. Your use of an excerpt must fulfill a demonstrated legitimate purpose in the course's curriculum and be narrowly-tailored to accomplish that purpose. 
    • Even when copyright law permits your use of a work, it may be illegal to circumvent copy-prevention technology in order to make that use. For instance, it is generally illegal, under 17 U.S.C. § 1201, to circumvent the Content Scramble System that restricts access to works on some DVDs. 
    • The library and NWC do not charge students for access to materials on e-reserve.
  • Use a link to legal copyright protected materials whenever possible (website URLs or library-licensed materials) as opposed to scanning or making a copy and posting it. Providing a lawful link to a material is not an infringement but uploading a scanned document could be considered copyright infringement by a federal judge. Please be aware that certain library-licensed works contractually prohibit direct linking (for example, Harvard Business Publishing/HBP). 
    • For more guidance see the "Linking to Material" tab in this box.
    • For open web links similar to those found on YouTube or Vimeo, please verify that it is an official channel for the work you would like to use. Unofficial channels sometimes can be infringing and those types of links should not be provided to the NWC community.
  • Most material found online is copyright protected and governed by the terms and conditions of the site license (a form of contract). Because contracts and licenses are enforceable over the provisions of copyright law, the terms and conditions of the license apply and can supersede copyright law. Before making use of a work, it is the responsibility of the course instructor to comply with these terms by reading any library subscription resources' terms and conditions or any website terms.
  • All materials linked within or uploaded to Blackboard or Leganto, regardless of medium or format, should include proper citation to the original source of publication and any form of copyright notice (the c in a circle symbol, ©, and any information following it) and the title page. You don’t need to track down additional copyright information but just need to retain what is already there.
  • Consider using a copyright disclaimer on your course page and/or syllabus that materials may be subject to copyright and are for personal and educational use without further dissemination (please see an example further below).
  • It is the responsibility of the instructor to ensure all copyrighted materials used in the course have a license or rightsholder permission to use the work or the use must be evaluated for and deemed fair use by the instructor of the course. Fair use provides a framework of analysis for the instructor of the course to determine whether a reproduction or distribution can be made of copyrighted materials without the prior permission of the copyright owner. 
    • One overarching question to ask yourself in a fair use analysis is if the quotation, image, or video/music clip will be subject to analysis or is it necessary, because without it you will not understand the pedagogy? Is it necessary to hear, see, or read it in order to understand the pedagogical point?   
    • If relying on fair use, instructors may in good faith complete a copy of the fair use analysis before submitting material for electronic reserves (each and every time its use is desired with a new student cohort). Analyses can be retained according to departmental policy but do not need to be submitted to library staff. The Copyright Librarian is able to assist instructors with any informational questions about an individual analysis (including, but not limited to, fourth factor market effect details).
    • If, after analysis, it does not appear likely that the desired use falls within the four factors, do not copy, post, or disseminate the work. Your options: reevaluate your use by changing how much of the work you desire to use, ask permission to use the work from the rightsholder, purchase an available one-time use license, or find an alternative work
    • Reconsider fair use each and every time the work is desired to be used to see if any circumstances have changed (for example the availability or unavailability of an eBook with unlimited users or a any available licensing mechanism).

*Please see the NWC E-Reserve Guide for more details on Leganto.

Adapted from Davidson College Library Research Guides are licensed under a CC-BY-SA 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons license logo for CC by-sa 4.0

Example Copyright Disclaimer for Course Sites and/or Syllabi

If you include copyrighted material on a course site, it is recommended as a copyright best practice along with other measures, to include a notice, such as the following:

This course site contains copyrighted materials. Those materials may include text, images, graphics, audio and video clips, and other content. In some cases, the copyright is owned by third parties and your instructor is making it available to you by permission or under the fair use doctrine (17 U.S.C. § 107). The content is made available only for your personal, noncommercial, educational and scholarly use. You may not use the content for any other purpose or distribute or make the content available to others, unless you obtain any required permission from the copyright holder. Some content may be provided via streaming or other means that restrict copying; you may not circumvent those restrictions. You may not alter or remove any copyright or other proprietary notices included in the content.   

With your own lectures and notes, let your students know what you want them to share and how. You can include a notice in your syllabus to help guide students, such as the following:

My lectures and course materials (including slide presentations, tests, outlines, and similar materials) may be protected by copyright. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own personal and educational use. You may not disseminate this material further to others. For civilian students, if I am interested in posting your answers or papers on the course site, I will ask for your permission.

Leganto Notices & Attributions 

Leganto automatically displays a notice to any user opening a citation to caution against further distribution. This is consistent with the notice described in 17 U.S.C. 108(f)(1). Authorized users must agree to the following statement by clicking the "continue" button to access and open the full citation resource:



Materials included in Leganto and Blackboard should include appropriate citations or attributions to their sources. If a desired use is determined by the user to fall within the four factors of the doctrine of fair use, any section copied from a book or journal should be accompanied by a photocopy of the title page and the copyright statement (© symbol) page from the original source AND a complete citation

These citations may include:

  • Books: Author, Title, Edition, Volume, Place of Publication, Publisher, Date, ISBN, and the page range.
  • Journal Articles: Author, Title, Volume, Issue #, Month/Day, ISBN, and the page range. 

Linking to Electronic Resources Licensed by the Library

When you wish to assign a reading of an electronic resource that is available in the library's electronic collection (e.g., journal article or eBook), the best practice is to link the student directly to the article using the persistent link.

If the student wishes to access the article off-campus, the student will be prompted to authenticate themselves through the NWC Library's proxy server. They would then use their Blackboard account or CAC to authenticate. This does not violate copyright law and in general does not breach any of our contracts with vendors (please see note below for an exception).

Linking is a better practice than downloading a PDF of an article and uploading it to a course site. Posting a PDF to a course site makes it much easier for students to violate copyright by posting the article somewhere public or forwarding it via email to non-NWC authenticated users. This would breach NWC Library's contract terms with its electronic vendors.

To sum it up, when a journal article or eBook is available through and licensed by the library, the best practice is to link to the article using the resource's persistent link by posting that link on your course page. 


  • No permalinks may be used for electronic resources from Harvard Business Publishing (the library subscribes to Harvard Business Review articles through EBSCOhost's Business Source Premier). If you would like students to read an article from HBP, please provide them with the citation for the article without the permalink. Students will need to locate the resource independently through EBSCOhost's Business Source Premier. Another option is to use in your course reading list citation the permalink provided on the Primo VE resource page. Students can authenticate through that resource page to gain access to the article.
  • For guidance on eBooks and remote access/permalinks please visit NWC's eBook guide.
  • If you would like to make a copy of a book or a journal article that is still in copyright and is not available electronically through the library, please first submit a Purchase Request through the Primo site (you will first need to log in using your NWC credentials) to determine if a digital version with unlimited users is available for purchase (please note in the form that the request is for a course so that the Reserve Technician will also be notified). If a digital version is not available, please visit the fair use section of this guide for more information (please remember that if a reading is optional or supplemental, it is not likely a fair use and should not be considered for digitization).
  • Having difficulty accessing a library-licensed resource? Please email 

Linking to Non-library Licensed Material

When possible, link to a legitimate and legal online copy of a work instead of posting or uploading it to Blackboard or Leganto.

Linking helps to mitigate the risk of infringement when using legitimate and legal resources. Use your best judgment to determine authenticity and that the hosting site is a legal one.

  • For example, it is unlikely Disney has authorized the full reproduction of one of their films uploaded (copied) to YouTube by a third-party.
  • For YouTube or Vimeo type links, please verify that it is an official channel for the work you would like to use. Unofficial channels are likely to be copyright infringement and links should not be provided to the NWC community.

Using Media Content for Teaching Purposes

Instructors may wish to use digital images and media for display during class for illustrative purposes. In a live, face-to-face class of enrolled students, the face-to-face teaching exception to copyright law permits this practice. The TEACH Act exemption for online teaching may allow showing limited (reasonable) portions of digital media, but strict criteria limit this exemption. Please see 17 U.S.C. §110 for more information. Fair use (17 U.S.C. § 107) is another option to weigh for your use. Digital technological locks generally may not be broken to use digital media in class (for clarification, please see the DMCA tab on the Copyright Related Topics page).

The following are some common FAQs and responses:

Where should the media I wish to display in class come from?

If you wish to take full advantage of the face-to-face teaching exception, the media must come from a legal source. It is important to remember, too, that the face-to-face teaching exception does not permit making copies or reproductions of materials, so that analysis would have to be based on fair use (that would include using only limited reasonable portions and not a full film).

Can I show an entire movie in my class, even if that movie is currently protected by copyright?

Yes, if you are meeting with enrolled students in a face-to-face teaching lesson, you may show a movie for the duration of the face-to-face class for an educational purpose so long as you lawfully obtained that copy of the movie (perhaps you checked it out from the library or you purchased your own copy of the movie to show to the class). You cannot show a movie from an illegal source such as a website that is illegally streaming movies. This type of in-classroom use is most likely prohibited by the terms of use of any personal streaming platforms (e.g., Netflix); please read your personal use license carefully to determine what is allowed and what is prohibited to remain contract compliant.

If you are teaching an online course, then you would have to perform a fair use analysis on a case-by-case basis for each movie clip you wish to show. Note that you are unlikely able to show an entire movie (as one of the factors for fair use is the quantity used), unless the movie is in the public domain or has a public license that allows that specific use.

If you would like to assign a streaming film to students in your course, please submit a Purchase Request in Primo. Purchase requests may be submitted through the Library's Primo site (you will need to login to Primo with your NWC credentials in order to submit the request).

For more information on teaching with video, please read "The Copyright Implications of Teaching with Video" (Sara Benson interview from, 2019).

What about images, for instance, of a famous artist's painting?

In the case of displaying the image in face-to-face teaching, it is completely appropriate so long as the photograph image comes from a lawful source. With an online course, though, a fair use analysis would be appropriate. And, of course, if the image is in the public domain, then any kind of use is permissible. 

What if I wish to convert an old copy of a VHS video into a DVD to show to my class?

Remember, the teaching exception to copyright applies only to face-to-face teaching and only to the "display" of the work, not to make reproductions/copying of the work.  So, if the movie is still protected by copyright, it is best not to copy or convert the work. There are a few options for you to consider: 

  • First, check to see whether you can obtain a VHS player to use during class.
  • Next, check to see whether the library has a copy of the movie in DVD or available on its streaming platforms. If a DVD is available, and you plan to show ("perform") it in an in-person class, the face-to-face teaching exception applies. If available on the library's streaming platforms, you can assign the film to students using a link.
  • Finally, if none of the above options are available, and there are no licensing mechanisms in place or a DVD copy is unavailable for purchase, you could ask the copyright owner for permission to convert the copy and let them know that you only plan to make one copy and use it for teaching purposes.

In a face-to-face class, it is preferable to live stream from links to legal audiovisual content live during class (or by inserting the original DVD or Blu-Ray into the computer to play) rather than downloading and/or copying content. Remember, the face-to-face teaching exception allows for the display and not the copying of the material. However, if after thoughtful research and analysis, you must make a small clip copy, you should engage in a fair use analysis (and not circumvent technological locks on media).

For films, change of format without permission is against the law. Short clips are an exception under certain parameters. 

Can I show short clips in an online class?

Generally, if the class is online, you would need to engage in a fair use analysis. Using brief shorter clips is preferred under fair use, as one of the factors is the quantity used. The media also needs to come from a lawful source. There is an exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for educators to bypass digital safety measures to show short clips but not full films (only "reasonable portions"), but this should be the last option if the use is determined on a case-by-case basis to be a fair one. Remember that the materials, if placed online, should be placed on a password-protected course site and not on the open web. Students should be informed not to disseminate further and that the works are provided for personal educational use only.

If you would like to assign a streaming film to students in your course, please submit a Purchase Request in Primo and note that it is for a course along with you "need by" date. Purchase requests may be submitted through the Library's Primo site (you will need to login to Primo with your NWC credentials in order to submit the request).

Please see 17 U.S.C. § 1201 for details on the DMCA and New DMCA Exemptions (2021, U.S. Copyright Office) for the most up to date exemptions. The DMCA Exemptions 2024 website has been set up here.

Where can I find more resources on using media in teaching?

Please see the following resources for more information (not legal advice):

For more details on using media, including Public Performance Rights (film festival type-use), please see the film page.


Teaching with Your Own Published Scholarship

Many academics wish to assign their own previously published works to students for class reading. This is generally fine if the library licenses the particular journal that the civilian instructor wishes to assign. In that case, the best practice would be to link to the material directly from the library resource (see the Linking to Material tab of this box for more details). 

What if the library does not license that particular journal? The civilian instructor then must consider their own individual copyright agreement with that particular journal/publisher. Does the copyright agreement permit for classroom distribution of the work? Note: the contract with the publisher supersedes general copyright law defenses, but fair use can always be weighed.

In order to proactively protect work in the future, civilian instructors should think about potential uses they may wish to make of their own work. This might include public presentations at conferences, placing a copy of the journal article in an institutional repository, or classroom teaching purposes (including posting on Blackboard or in Leganto). Once a civilian instructor identifies what they would like to use their work for in the future, they should include an exception or reserve the right to use the work for that purpose in their copyright agreement with the journal/publisher.

One potential source of information for future copyright negotiations is the SPARC Author's Addendum, which is a ready-made addendum to any publishing agreement reserving academic uses to the author.

Please see the Copyright for Authors (Scholarly Communication) on this guide for more details.

In the Process of Signing? Have You Already Signed a Transfer Agreement?

SHERPA RoMEO provides information about the copyright policies, open access, and self-archiving policies of publishers. This is an excellent source of information about specific publisher's copyright policies, and can be useful if authors needs to know, before or after signing copyright agreements, what rights they will/have retained. 

Assigning links to online material available through the library is the easiest and safest way to be copyright and contract compliant.

  • The licenses for e-journals and eBooks usually include the right for students to repeatedly access (through authentication) these materials online and you can repeatedly use the online article permalinks from semester to semester (Harvard Business Review articles or HBP resources are an exception as they do not allow linking).
    • Please verify access each trimester in advance.
    • Electronic journals have unlimited access but some eBooks limit the amount of simultaneous users. Unlimited user access is ideal for access to a course-related assignment. Please contact the library with any questions about access.
  • Individual e-journal license terms of use may prevent users from emailing electronic resources to students or colleagues and placing the files on Blackboard/Leganto, an Internet site, or in a database (this would be considered systematic copying and put NWC in breach of its legal contracts with vendors).

Please contact for assistance finding library resources that fit your learning objective(s).

Please see the NWC Library-Licensed Materials page for more details.

Empower your students

Help your students make informed decisions regarding the work they and others create and use within Blackboard and Leganto. The following modules developed by University of Michigan's Library Copyright Office are helpful copyright introductions:

These modules cover:

  • The difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement.
  • What is copyrightable and what is not.
  • The public domain (work that’s no longer subject to copyright).
  • Permissible uses under U.S. copyright law.
  • When it’s necessary to secure permission before you use a work.

Another Resource is Teaching Copyright

  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation created this curriculum to help teachers educate students about copyright.