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Copyright: Online Course Sites

A guide to copyright law as it relates to academic research, teaching, and publication.

Fair Use for Teaching - Fall 2017

Join Scholarly Communication Librarian, April Hathcock, for a session on applying fair use to course materials for fall 2017. Learn about posting PDFs of articles, book chapters, and more into NYU Classes. Also, learn how to work with other multimedia materials, including YouTube videos and items licensed by the NYU Libraries, such as ebooks. Register today!

Contacts & Help

Creating digital coursepacks
Streaming services:
Applying Fair Use & other copyright questions:
April Hathcock, Scholarly Communications Librarian,

Posting Video & Audio

Audio and video materials can be made available to students online through NYU Classes:

  • The library licenses a wide selection of audiovisual material that can be streamed by students using links on NYU Classes. 
  • Clips of copyrighted movies and music can also be uploaded to NYU Classes under Fair Use.

In addition, copyright law provides a classroom exception in section 110(1) allowing instructors to show entire copyrighted works during the course of a face-to-face class session.

Streaming Full-Length Films

Uploading full-length films from DVDs into NYU Stream or NYU Classes is not generally supported by fair use or other exceptions to copyright law. A much better practice is to request an authorized copy of the film for streaming into NYU Classes.

The Libraries license streaming media from a number of vendors covering a wide range of content:

For materials not currently licensed by the Libraries for streaming, please contact your subject specialist for assistance.

Online Course Sites

The law permits faculty to provide access to copyrighted material for registered students using an online course site such as NYU Classes, but copyright (and sometimes licensing) restrictions still apply.  

Linking to Materials vs Posting PDFs

Articles and other materials from library databases are subject to license agreements that specify how database contents may be used. For information on how database materials can be used, including whether it is permitted to post PDFs of materials on NYU Classes, contact Ask-A-Librarian.

Generally, all database materials can be made available through NYU Classes by linking to the appropriate database. Linking is just as easy as attaching a PDF, but it is a better option for providing access to licensed material while staying within copyright and license terms. To learn how to provide permalinks to database articles that your students can access throughout the semester, see the research guide on Adding Library Resources.

When there is no license agreement specifying how materials can be used, the U.S. Copyright Act applies to posting PDFs of library materials on NYU Classes. Copyright law permits posting in three situations:

  1. the work is in the public domain -- see Copyright Term and the Public Domain
  2. you have permission from the copyright owner -- see Getting Permission
  3. your use qualifies as Fair Use -- see Applying Fair Use

TEACH Act and Distance Education

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act of 2002 permits instructors of non-profit educational institutions to display audio-visual and other works for distance education courses in a manner comparable to what would be permitted in a live, face-to-face classroom. Under the TEACH Act, instructors may make available online for student use:

  • full performances of nondramatic literary or musical works (i.e., no plays, musicals, operas, etc.); or
  • "reasonable and limited portions" of dramatic audio-visual or other types of works.

The material must only be made available to students enrolled in a particular course (e.g., under the password-protected auspices of a Course Management System) and only during the time period (e.g., quarter, semester, summer session) of that particular course. In addition, the material must be accompanied by a notice to students that it only be used in accordance with copyright law and the copyright policy of the institution.

For more information about the TEACH Act and how it applies, see this overview from Columbia University.

It should be noted that the TEACH Act stands apart from the Fair Use exception. Even if an instructor is unable to make material available to students under the TEACH Act, the use still may qualify for Fair Use protection. Contact us at with any questions regarding applications of TEACH Act or Fair Use.

Scholarly Communications Librarian

April Hathcock's picture
April Hathcock
Elmer H. Bobst Library
Fair Use Listserv:

Digital Coursepacks

NYU Bookstores' Coursepack Service creates digital coursepacks that can be integrated with a course's Blackboard page.

The Coursepack Service clears all copyright permissions, and permission fees are incorporated into the coursepack price. 

Faculty using the Coursepack Service are indemnified by NYU against any claims of copyright infringement.