The contexts surrounding COVID-19 are rapidly shifting, so the guidance presented here may change over time. Last updated 3/16/2020.

As Carleton prepares to rapidly transition from in-person to online instruction, many questions are arising about our ability to share materials online. Carleton’s Copyright Policy and Copyright Guidance continue to be useful during this time of crisis. For the most part, anything that you could legally copy or display in your classroom you can display in your online classroom for your enrolled students.

In general, proceed as you have always done

  • Link to existing licensed content when possible. Your Library Liaison can help you locate licensed material and identify stable links to that material so that it will work from off campus.
  • Perform a Fair Use analysis as usual. Carleton policy affirms that it is an instructor’s right and responsibility to make their own decisions about making copies for students.
    • See more guidance below for Fair Use During a National Crisis.
    • See guidance below for Special Considerations for Multimedia Viewing/Listening.  The Copyright Committee can help you think through this process and relevant considerations (
  • Seek permission or alternative content as needed. Your Liaison Librarian can work with you to investigate whether alternative content is accessible that would help you achieve your learning goals.

Expanded Fair Use During a National Crisis?

You may have heard of other institutions that have decided they are willing to digitize full books, films, etc. during this period of crisis. Legal opinion is still hotly divided on this issue. Carleton administration has decided to proceed with our current policies and practices: seeking licensed material when we can, making Fair Use analyses as usual, and seeking permission or alternative content when the first two options fail. That said, Fair Use does not codify “10%” or “1 chapter” into law. Fair Use is a flexible measure that balances Four Factors, and it is intended to allow for the reproduction of materials for teaching, criticism, and comment. The more limited the amount you reproduce, the better, but the idea is to use just enough of a work to achieve your learning goals.

Special considerations for multimedia viewing/listening

Digitizing and showing entire films or audio performances is often not advisable. We recognize that there is currently a plethora of conflicting information from the many institutions wrestling with this issue, but the College’s assessment is that our current extraordinary circumstances do not change the laws that prohibit copying or distributing multimedia works, particularly the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Recording video of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc.

If it was legal to show slide images in class, it is likely legal to show them to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos. As long as your new course video is being shared through course websites limited to the same enrolled students, the legal issues are fairly similar.

Uploading copyrighted content and instructional videos for students

Best Practices

  • Be sure students know that they should not share copyrighted materials outside of class.
  • Keep access limited to enrolled students in the class.
  • Whenever possible, have access limited to specific days/times during the academic term.

Best Hosting Options

Moodle, Panopto, Imagen, and Google Drive are very good options for uploading your instruction content because they allow you to easily restrict access to ONLY those students who are enrolled in your course. This restriction aids your Fair Use analysis significantly and allows you to make decisions as if you were teaching face-to-face (except in the case of multimedia works, as discussed above).

Other Hosting Options

While you can upload videos to YouTube and the like, it is more likely that you will encounter automated copyright enforcement such as a takedown notice or disabled audio or video content. These automated enforcement tools are often incorrect, and they can be appealed, but they may add unnecessary complications to your process.

Ownership of Online Content

Carleton’s Copyright Policy affirms that faculty, staff, and students own the copyrights in their academic works, including instructional content and submitted coursework.

Acknowledgements: Much of this page adapts content originally created by Nancy Sims for the University of Minnesota. Her work is licensed under a CC-BY license.