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Information about copyright compliance

Copyright Support

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Luann Edwards
Office location: Pfeiffer Library

Common Classroom Copyright Issues

Whether you teach a seated (face-to-face) course or online, you may encounter several situations in which copyright violations could occur. Those situations can include, but are not limited to:

- Textbook delays

- Fiscal exigency

- Films, Images, and multimedia

- Handouts and supplements

The manner in which these issues may be addressed differs greatly because copyright compliance issues that occur inside a classroom setting are difficult to track. Our Learning Management System, however, creates a digital footprint of every interaction between a faculty member and his/her students. The following scenarios will provide faculty and students with some valuable information for addressing and avoiding copyright in the classroom setting.

Textbook Delays

A student's inability to obtain a textbook can occur for a variety of reasons, and some of those are completely out of our students' control. When this occurs, it can have a severe impact on a students' ability to meet deadlines at the start of a term.

Here are our recommendations to protect yourself from accidentally violating copyright when your students are impacted by textbook delays:

  • Verify with the bookstore that there has in fact been a delay on your textbooks before you copy/distribute anything to your students. Note the date for when the delay will be resolved.
  • Do not copy/distribute materials to the entire class. Make sure that any copies made are only given to those students who need them.
  • Mark your copies as copyright-protected material. This can be as simple as hand-writing a message that says "This material is protected by copyright" at the top of the first page of your handout.
  • Do not place textbook materials inside the LMS.
  • If you are teaching on the TU campus and have an extra copy of the textbook, contact the seated library to discuss placing the item on a temporary reserve for the duration of the delay. It is a violation of the library's reserve policy to keep a textbook on reserve for an entire semester, but other options may be available in exigent circumstances.
  • If you are teaching online, contact the eLibrarian (Luann Edwards- to see if an electronic version of the text is available in the library's collection or online.
  • Print copies of textbooks may be available at other libraries not affiliated with Tiffin University. WorldCat is an excellent resource to help students locate books in their area: This is an invaluable resource for out-of-state students.

These options provide students with temporary alternatives, and should only be used if/when the lack of access to the textbook is beyond the student's control. Examples could include unexpected closure of the university due to inclement weather, bookstore inventory issues, or natural disasters impacting Tiffin University and its ability to provide that service to its students. Lack of transportation, financial issues, severe illness, and other personal issues are not acceptable reasons to prolong the purchase of a textbook.

Fiscal Exigency

Textbook costs are always a consideration when we plan our courses, but occasionally we do encounter a student unable to purchase a textbook at the start of a semester. There are many external factors to explain why a student may not have access to a textbook when the course begins, but copying or digitizing material in order to delay the purchase of a textbook is a serious copyright infringement. Library licensing is also not a viable alternative, as OhioLINK restrictions prohibit the use of library lending for the purpose of bypassing a textbook purchase. There are other options available to help reduce the cost of a textbook purchase, and those include:

  • Textbook rentals, either in print or electronic form (and sometimes both!). The bookstore may offer such alternatives, and options are also available from retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and many of our textbook publishers. Students who rent with Chegg ( are provided with a free week of the e-book while they wait for their physical books to arrive.
  • Internal funding sources. Have the student contact his/her academic adviser in order to discuss the hardship. Scholarships or other funding may be available to assist students with exigent circumstances.

Films, Images, and Multimedia

The TEACH Act allows the use of film and multimedia in a classroom setting when such use is directly applicable to the learning objectives of the course. These materials may not be used for entertainment purposes whether inside a classroom or by student organizations outside of a structured classroom environment without seeking permission from the rights holder of the film. In order to remain compliant with copyright law, we recommend the following:

  • If students are asked to purchase a film for a course, treat it as a textbook. Do not digitize or copy the content on behalf of the student.
  • Suggest online rental and/or streaming options if the student experiences difficulty obtaining the film through the bookstore. Library reserves are not an option for resources that students are asked to purchase.
  • For films used for in-class viewing: Films with a digital alternative are a viable option for students absent on the day a film is shown in class. Seated faculty may also place copies of the film on reserve in the seated library for a short period of time to accommodate students with an absence. This does not apply to any resource that students are asked to purchase directly.
  • Seek out options to link, rather than embed, in the LMS whenever possible. Films and multimedia resources may not be digitized and added to course companions as supplements.

Handouts and Supplements

In the seated classroom environment, we recommend that you mark any copies of handouts distributed in-print as copyright-protected material. Limit the amount of text-based information that you copy, and look for suitable alternatives online to avoid digitizing large amounts of print material.

If you intend to upload material into the LMS or distribute reading via email, you should use the following precautions in order to limit the potential for copyright infringement:

  • Avoid digitizing print resources, especially if they are supplemental materials. The TEACH Act allows minimal digitization of content only when 1) no digital version of any kind (including for sale) is available and 2) the reading is REQUIRED in order to complete an activity in the course.
  • Read the fine print for any resource you'd like to use that you didn't create. Some web sites will include copyright statements, terms of use policies, and other pertinent contact information for anyone wishing to use or distribute their content.
  • Use a hyperlink rather than embedding documents that you find online. This allows the owner of the material to pull that material offline at any point. Embedding a document without providing the owner with the right to remove his/her material from view violates copyright law.
  • Use the permalink to library resources. Pulling off a library PDF and placing it in our LMS is a violation of library licensing agreements. This tutorial will walk you through the process of searching our catalog and extracting the permalink:


Protecting Your Own Work in the Digital Environment

Anything placed online can become a target for misuse, but there are some steps that faculty can take in order to make expectations for use clear. If you wish to put your own research, instructional materials, or other written and/or creative works online, here are our recommendations:

  • Include a statement of ownership on your web site, documents, and other materials.
  • Use a water mark on your document so that, when printed, your statement of ownership appears over text and or images. This tutorial will show you how to watermark documents in Word, Excel, and Photoshop:
  • Remove the print and save options from individual PDF files. This tutorial will show you how to protect your PDF document:
  • Make your expectations clear. If you want to share your work with other faculty, but want those faculty to contact you directly in order to obtain permission, make sure that you directly state those expectations on your web page.
  • Monitor your site traffic, if applicable, and occasionally check to see if your work has turned up other places online. Sites like YouTube and Google take copyright infringement seriously, and both have options for deleting content used illegally and without your permission.

These recommendations may not completely protect your work from copyright infringement because the web is large, public, and completely unrestricted. Clear expectations allow you the ability to challenge use and misuse of your content with documented evidence that ownership exists and a violation has occurred. There are numerous articles online related to preventing web site theft. We recommend this article for additional resources and information: