Copyright for Online Education

Here are some tips related to copyright in the context of distance, online, and/or hybrid education.

Images, videos of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc.

Anything that was legal to show in an in-person class is likely legal to show to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos, as long as you are doing this through Canvas to the students enrolled in your class.

In-lecture use of audio or video

If you limit usage to relatively brief clips, you may be able to include those in lecture recordings or live-casts under the copyright provision called “Fair Use.” For media use longer than brief clips, you may need to have students independently access the content outside of your lecture videos. In such circumstances, you may find helpful resources listed within the JMU Libraries guide to Free Media for Creative Use and the list of licensed media resources available to JMU students, faculty, and staff.

Making and posting videos

If you want assistance with creating educational videos (e.g. recorded lectures), request a consultation on media production. Our experts can provide assistance with creating media for instructional purposes, as well as comprehensive guidance in JMU-licensed tools and resources, video creation, and sharing your video with students.

Visit our Recording and Sharing Lectures page and our Creating Quality Video at Home page to learn how to make your own videos.

Course readings and other resources

If you want to share additional readings with your students as you revise your 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:

Sharing copies

  • It’s best not to make copies of entire works, but Fair Use regulations often allow copying portions of works to share with students.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable relying on Fair Use, your department’s liaison librarian can suggest alternative content that is already available through library subscriptions, open educational resources, or publicly available content. We may also be able to help you seek formal copyright permissions to provide copies to students, but there may be issues with getting permissions on short timelines.

Ownership of online course materials

JMU Policy 1107 governs ownership of materials created by JMU faculty for distance education. See section 5.2(3): “Distance learning materials and courseware created by faculty without the substantial use of university resources remain the property of the faculty member.”

Instructors may wish to inform or remind students about classroom policies regarding sharing course materials. For instance, if an instructor does not want students to share slide decks or study guides outside of the course management system, the instructor should remind students of this, let students know they are not to distribute course materials, and may wish to include notices about this in course content.

To ask questions or get help


This page was adapted from Rapidly Shifting Your Course from In-Person to Remote (no longer online), by Nancy Sims, University of Minnesota Libraries, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. It was improved by collaboration from too many wonderful colleagues to count.