Ten Handy Copyright Tips
July 28, 2016

  1. When showing video clips or screenshots from video clips, don’t rely on the face-to-face teaching exemption if you have reason to believe the copy you’re using was made without the copyright owner’s permission. 

  2. Treat works created outside the U.S. the same way you treat works created inside the U.S.—get permission if at all possible. 

  3. Don’t rely on representations made by Bing, Wikipedia, or other Internet sources when it comes to determining whether a use may be in the public domain. 

  4. Copyright notices are OPTIONAL. Always assume, as a baseline, that a work is protected. Always get permission if possible (asking forgiveness can be expensive)! Relying on exemptions and/or the fair use doctrine can be risky depending on the facts. 

  5. Track licenses and revisit their terms frequently to ensure that they are properly renewed or broadened (including the payment of any additional licensing fees) if necessary.

  6. Don’t assume any use related to education qualifies as a “fair use.” Remember to consider ALL fair use factors and always seek a license as a best practice.  Absent a clear written agreement, ownership issues become highly fact-dependent. Don’t leave the issue to the courts—include clear copyright ownership provisions within employee contracts or handbooks. 

  7. Consider whether content you want taken down from a content host (e.g., YouTube) qualifies as a fair use before submitting a DMCA take-down request. If your institution hosts third-party content, put a fair use checklist in your DMCA take-down policy. 

  8. Statutory exemptions (e.g., the non-profit exemption) contain many conditions and can be tricky to navigate! Try to plan ahead by carefully thinking about your particular circumstances and comparing them to the conditions required to qualify for a given exemption.

  9. Check the original source. When in doubt, obtain a license. Check the social media platform’s terms and conditions. Instead of posting protected content directly on your social media page, post a link to the original source containing the content. 

  10. Internal-only use (e.g., use amongst a department of educators) gives rise to the same infringement liability as external use (e.g., use in connection with those educators’ students). Ensure that proper licenses are in place and, if there are questions about compliance, call each other—do not create a discoverable email trail.  

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