How do I know?

Copyright protection exists from the time a work is created in a fixed tangible form of expression. It is important to know that mere ownership of a book, manuscript, painting, etc., does not give you the copyright to the work. 

The Copyright Act generally applies to the creation, protection and use of literary, cinematic, pictorial and many other forms of creative materials.

The information listed here for educational purposes is to guide faculty and other users how to decide how to proceed with using content in an online course setting, what are the factors to consider and how to pursue copyright license permission when necessary.

In teaching with copyright protected content the main factors to consider are:

  • Fair Use Review: Four-Factor
  • TEACH Act
  • Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Fair Use: Four-Factors

According to the Copyright Law, 1976, the following four factors should be taken into consideration before deciding to use copyright protected material without obtaining permission from the copyright holder:

  • The purpose and character of use.
    (Why and How you intend to use the work)

  • The nature of the work.
    (Is this a textbook or substantive work in your content area?)

  • The amount and substantiality of the portion selected, in relation to the size of the work.
    (Are you using over 10% of the work, are you using the "heart" of the work?)

  • The effect of the use of the work on the market value of the work.
    (Will your use of the work negatively effect the owner of the copyright?)

    If any of these considerations cannot be answered clearly, you should probably ask for permission to use the work from the copyright, unless you use is covered under the TEACH Act (see below).

United States Code, Title 17, Section 107



To post copyright protected material in an online course system for educational use the situation must meet the following TEACH Act criteria.

  • You must teach for an accredited, non-profit educational institution. (UAA qualifies)

  • The use must be a part of mediated instructional activities.

  • The use must be limited to a specific number of students enrolled in a specific class.

  • The use must be for a "live" or "asynchronous" class session.

  • The use must not include transmission of a textbook materials, these are materials "typically purchased or acquired by students, textbooks or course pack materials" Textbook materials no longer required or out of print can be used, only after three years of the required use.

If your situation fits the TEACH Act you can use copyrighted materials in a course at UAA.

TEACH Act Policy (pdf) from Copyright Clearance Center


Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

To use digital media, defined as copyrighted and copy-protected materials like DVD, CD, and digital audio tracks, the DMCA allows for exceptions for nonprofit library archives, and non-profit educational institutions under the following conditions:

  • The faculty member or graduate students' activities do not involve providing online access to course materials that were required or recommended during the past three years.
  • The institution has not received more than two notifications that a faculty member or a student was infringing, and
  • The institution provides all of its users with informational materials describing and promoting compliance with copyright law.

Full DMCA text


Open Source and Free Resources

There are many open source digital media options available to use in online and hybrid courses. Below are some links to various resources that we have found, but don't hesitate to search the internet for resources in your course topics. You will be amazed what is already out there and free to share with your students.

Examples of learning materials with Creative Commons Licensing:

Open Professionals Education Network
Links to individual media elements to use in educational settings.

MIT Open Courseware
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Open Courseware, CC License requests attribution, non-commercial use and share alike.

TED: Ideas Worth Sharing
TED Talks released under CC licensing, freely share and repost. (Search for YouTube versions for embedding in Blackboard).

Open Yale Courses

Free and open access to introductory courses. CC license request attribution, non-commercial use and share alike.

Webcast Berkeley

UC Berkeley's online video and audio for students and learners.

Carnegie Mellon University Open Learning Initiative

Access to open and free courses.


Examples of images & photos with free or Creative Commons Licensing:

Creative Commons

Find the right kind of license for your work, and explore to find CC licensed works to use in your online environment.


Free stock images, free stock photos, use with attribution.


Free photos to use, just provide a like to Bigfoto website.

Mayang's Free Textures

Library of 4300+ high resolution texture photos/background images.

Nations Illustrated

Over 7000 images from around the world to use for personal or non-commercial use.

Public Domain Pictures

Repository for free public domain images, download to use or upload yours to share.

Public Photo

Free photography for commercial use.

Open Clip Art Library

Collaborative community that creates and shares and remixes clipart.

Burning Well

Repository for public domain images.


Images to use for free, requests attribution.

Please carefully read each sites rules and license agreements before using any images or other web-based sources.

NOTE: The above links include third-party content that we do not control. UA does not maintain or endorse any material found on third party websites.

Cool Tools

Fair Use Evaluator

The Copyright Genie

Section 108 Spinner

Public Domain Slider

From the ALA
Office of Information
Technology Policy

It is important to note that the information found on this website are not designed to be a legal interpretation of the law, nor are they designed to be used or quoted as legal advice. If you are in doubt about how to apply the copyright policy, please contact UA General Counsel for further guidance.

Workshops, consultation and training are available at Academic Innovations & eLearning.