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Use this resource to learn more about copyright and fair use for academics; however: we are not lawyers, and the resources provided here are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. 

Learning Activities

1) Watch the "Copyright Basics" Video (6:17 min) to understand what copyright is, and how it affects us all

2) Watch the "Copyright on Campus" Video (6:30 min) to understand your legal and ethical obligations in the use of course materials -- such as articles, books or book chapters, videos, audio recordings, images, learning objects, and more -- in the online learning environment

3) Select a particular resource that you might utilize in your online course, such as an article, and use the "Digital Copyright Slider" interactive tool to determine the resource's copyright status

Checklists and Interactive Tools

More often than not, the learning materials we wish to utilize in distance education are copyrighted. It is our legal and ethical obligation to determine whether we need permission before we perform or digitally reproduce copyrighted material in our Blackboard courses.

So, how to you know when you should seek permission to use a copyrighted work?

If your specific use of the material aligns with Fair Use or the TEACH Act, you may not need to seek permission. These tools can help you to identify your legal obligations:

WHEN IN DOUBT, ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION: seek permission, or use one of the work-arounds outlined below!

Next Steps


If after using the tools above you determine that copyright permission is required, then do the following:




  • Upload and make the content available in your Bb course. This is a good option if the material is already in digital format, and you are diligent about taking material down at the end of the term.

WORK-AROUNDS: Copyright, Shmopyright?

If you need a copyright permissions work-around, consider these options:

1) You can always link out to content from Blackboard, instead of reproducing it digitally within the Bb environment. Simply provide a URL to where the content "lives" on the web. If the content is library-owned, and off-campus users must sign in for access, use the following guide to create a stable link to library-held materials:

2) You may also find free content to use in your course that is covered by a Creative Commons license. CC licenses are designed to enable "the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools." CC licenses are not an alternative to copyright, but rather work in tandem with it -- so be sure to use the content in the manner designated by the CC license!

3) Finally, the CPP Affordable Learning Initiative has resources for finding Open Source Textbooks and Courseware for use in your course. Like CC-licensed works, these are not free from copyright, but rather are designed for free digtial access and educational use:

FAQs for Library E-Reserve

Q: How much of a book's content can I place on Electronic Reserve, without clearing copyright?

  • A: Generally, one chapter, or 10% of the total work. Anything beyond that requires copyright clearance.

Q: How long can I keep the article/book chapter on Electronic Reserve, without clearing copyright?

  • A: One quarter is the maximum allowed. If longer, the work must go through copyright clearance.

Q: Who pays for copyright clearance?

  • A: The faculty member or their department pays the copyright clearance fee.

Q: Can I place my course pack on Electronic Reserve at the Library?

  • A: Course packs are available via the Bronco Bookstore alone, and completed packs cannot be placed on e-reserve (it would be a violation of copyright to do so!).

Q: I received an article from the Library via Document Delivery, can I place that article on Electronic Reserve?

  • A: No, that would be a violation of copyright. CONTU Guidelines usually apply to content shared via Document Delivery, where the intended audience of the loaned work is a single person or researcher. If the work is to be more widely shared, copyright must be cleared. You also may not legally photocopy and distribute the work to your class as a handout.

Q: What if I wrote the article -- can't I add it to Electronic Reserve/ make photocopies/ put it on my website/ do whatever I darn please with it, since I wrote it?!

  • A: Legally, no. You are bound to the publication agreement you signed when your submitted article was accepted for publication. Some publishers are more lax and allow you to freely distribute pre- and post-prints, while others are quite restrictive and do not even allow you to self-archive your work on your website. Refer to your publication agreement or contact the publisher to see whether copyright clearance is warranted.

Have a question that was not answered here, or need assistance? Contact us!

E-Reserve, Fair Use: Leslie Jones, ldjones <at>, 909-869-4212

Copyright, linking to library-owned resources: Wendolyn Vermeer, wcvermeer <at>, 909-869-4990

Library Instruction, Bb-Library integration: Emma Gibson, ecgibson <at>, 909-869-4351