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Copyright in the Classroom: FAQs

Is it okay to show a movie in my class? How about my online class?

Under the scope of the Classroom Use Exemption, because Wartburg is a nonprofit educational institution, professors may show a film, share a work of art, perform a piece of music or theater, or otherwise display works in their physical classroom during the regularly scheduled class time. The exemption does not cover conducting those same activities outside of the classroom or outside of the regularly scheduled time.

The Classroom Use Exemption does not apply to online courses, even when the access to the materials is password-protected for only those enrolled in the course. If you need to share media in an online course, you will need to consider it through the lens of fair use (see below) or the TEACH Act. The TEACH Act was created to cover educational use of works in online courses, but there are strict parameters to what the TEACH Act allows—see more information on the University of Minnesota Libraries’ robust copyright guide: https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/teach-act.

As much as possible, link to material (that is legally accessed) for students or place material on reserve, rather than distributing copies, posting a PDF, or uploading an entire movie. Librarians and the Copyright Officer can assist you in locating a stable, legal link or establishing an e-reserve.

In the event of an emergency, such as the sudden move to remote instruction during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, there may be more generous interpretations of what you can link to online. The University of Minnesota Libraries’ guide also has an overview on this: https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/rapidly-shifting-a-course-online.

Doesn’t fair use allow me to use anything I want in my class?

Because Wartburg College is a non-profit educational institution, it is appropriate to consider how you use and reproduce works in classroom settings under the terms of fair use.

You may have been following the guideline that it is permissible to copy a portion of a work that is 250 words or fewer or 25 pages or fewer, but the actual parameter is not that definite. Take into consideration the length of the original piece and select only a fair amount to reproduce--and be sure that it is not the “heart” of the piece (the key part of the work that makes it unique).

Your reproduction or use of a work should not infringe on the revenue that the original creator would make if your students had to purchase the work themselves.

Every situation should be considered individually; this tool from the University of Minnesota Libraries’ robust copyright guide can help you decide if your use is fair use:https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/fairthoughts.

It is the instructor's right and responsibility to make determinations about fair use in course contexts. The Copyright Officer in the library can assist with any questions or tricky situations. Remember that the library can also assist in investigating access to the paid alternatives--placing physical books or ebooks on reserve, adding streaming video access, linking to content, and more.

In the event of an emergency, such as the sudden move to remote instruction during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, there may be more generous interpretations of fair use. The University of Minnesota Libraries’ guide also has an overview on this: https://www.lib.umn.edu/copyright/rapidly-shifting-a-course-online.