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IN > OIEI > ID&S > Step-by-Step Tutorials

Intellectual Property, Copyright, and Fair Use


The rules around the use of copyrighted materials in your online course can be complex. If the content in your course is your original work, there's no copyright problem, though you should be aware that if you develop this content as part of a paid assignment by the university, the intellectual property rights are shared with the Arizona Board of Regents. If the content in your course is the work of others, then you must have permission to use it. If you have adopted materials provided by a commercial publisher, or have obtained explicit written permission (you may be asked to produce it) to use materials that are copyrighted, or are using Open Educational Resources (OER), or are following the use guidelines of materials protected by Creative Commons, then you're probably in the clear. However, there are many assets online that you could point to, and not all of them have been posted with permission of the owner. For example, YouTube frequently removes videos posted without permission of the copy holder. In other cases, you may have legally downloaded a document for your personal use, but then choose to share it with your class without obtaining permission of the copyholder. Or you might scan a reading from a book you own, and share it with your class. This is where the concept of "fair use" comes into play. Just because you've been doing this for years and nobody noticed, or you didn't get notified of a problem, that doesn't make it legal.


Here’s a Wikipedia link on Fair Use:

We can invoke "fair use," recognizing that our intent is educational rather than profit-driven, and that our copy of a video or a reading is hidden behind authentication and only available to students in the course. A copyright warning should be included, indicating the source or ownership of these materials, and that they are not to be distributed. However, we need to honor the spirit of the fair use guidelines as outlined here.

The key elements are:

    1. Purpose and character of the use: a not-for-profit use is generally ok for educational purposes; we’re not selling the asset or trying to profit from it.
    2. Nature of the copyrighted work: works of non-fiction in particular, and those that are widely available, may be in the public interest, which weighs against copyright.
    3. Amount and substantiality: this is the trickiest one; the less that is used relative to the whole work, the better. Also, one can’t just use the "heart of the work."
    4. Effect upon the work’s value: if sharing the work deprives the copyholder of income that they would otherwise earn, that's a prohibited use.

Taking Action

How to secure rights to an asset:

Take reasonable steps to protect an asset:

Cease and desist orders:

Take responsibility: