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Classroom Use Scenarios

Following are several common scenarios that seem to crop up fairly frequently. For more specific situations, try the Checklist for Classroom Use.

I want to show a videotape or DVD in my face-to-face class. Is that OK?

Generally yes, as long as:

  • It is a legally acquired (not a "bootleg" or unlicensed) copy
  • The screening is solely for educational purposes (not just for entertainment)
  • It is only shown to enrolled students and instructors
  • The content is related to the material being taught.

I want to use video from a commercial motion picture in my online class.

This may or may not be permissible. Your best approach would be to used video content owned by UNCG and licensed for classroom use. Alternately, you may be able to post clips online through the terms of fair use and the TEACH Act.

I want to show a DVD movie to a group of students who might enjoy it as part of a club meeting or other gathering.

This is generally not permissible under copyright guidelines. Commercial DVDs are licensed for private home use only and showing them to a large group outside a classroom setting would probably be a violation of the copyright. The movie can only legally be shown to a group of teachers and students in a classroom as part of a mediated educational experience

I want to distribute paper or PDF copies of a complete out-of-print textbook online.

The fact that a book is out of print does not mean that it is no longer subject to copyright. Distributing copies of an entire copyrighted book would almost certainly be a violation. Its out of print status might justify copying a larger proportion of the book than would usually apply under fair use, but not the entire book. You might also check to see if the entire book is available online (e.g. through the Gutenburg Project or the Internet Archive.)

I want to distribute copies of an article I published to my students.

This depends on who holds the copyright to the published article. If you retained copyright, you may generally use it in any way you see fit. However, if you signed away the copyright when the article was published (which is very common), you would need to obtain permission from the copyright holder or make a fair use case for copying the material; the fact that you wrote the article is irrelevant.

I want to use this image of my favorite music group or celebrity for a video, presentation, or digital poster for a class.

In a face-to-face class, this is probably a fair use as long as the material is only displayed in the classroom setting and only shown to students or instructors. You could not display the materials in a public place (like a hallway, bulletin board, library, etc.).The rules are a bit murkier for online classes, but it may be permissible to use this material if it is password protected (e.g., in Blackboard) and is displayed in such a way that others cannot download and keep a copy of it (e.g., streaming video formats rather than downloadable files).

I want to use my favorite song as background to a video I am creating for class.

Again, in a face-to-face class, this is probably OK as long as the material is only displayed in the physical classroom and only viewed by students and instructors. The rules are a bit murkier for online classes, but it may be permissible to use this material if it is password protected (e.g., in Blackboard) and is displayed in such a way that others cannot download and keep a copy of it (e.g., streaming video formats rather than downloadable files).

I gave credit and cited my source for that copyrighted image or sound I used for a class project, so I should be okay, right?

Not necessarily. While you must always cite your sources, doing so does not negate any copyright concerns. If something is protected by copyright, you may only reproduce it with permission from the copyright holder or under a fair use exception. Citing the source or acknowledging the copyright does not change this fact.

Disclaimer: This site presents copyright guidelines and resources but should not be considered legal advice.