Copyright and Fair Use in Online Teaching

Duke Learning Innovation partnered with the Office of Copyright & Scholarly Communications and the Academy for Health Professions Education and Academic Development (Duke AHEAD) to offer a Q&A session on copyright, open resources, and fair use in online teaching. The session was held Nov. 29, 2017 and led by David Hansen, Sophia Stone, and Haley Walton.

Faculty learned about the most common issues and practices in digital copyright, the range of Duke tools and resources available to help resolve copyright issues, and explored the role they have in shaping what is viewed as acceptable in terms of fair use in online teaching.

Participants attended from the Duke School of Medicine, School of Nursing, Doctor of Physical Therapy, Graduate Medical Education, Duke Surgery, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Pediatrics, Duke Integrative Medicine and the Medical Center Library.

Fair Use and Online Teaching

William Williamson, an online course builder with Duke Learning Innovation said  instructors often ask about the types of digital materials they can or can’t use in their online courses, given the format and distribution, and based on whether they are teaching in their own university’s Learning Management System (a closed course) or developing a MOOC or an online professional program for external audiences. To avoid copyright pitfalls, design your online course with copyright free images or use open access materials or those in the public domain.

Is your use of a copyrighted image or a YouTube video covered by fair use? That depends on its instructional purpose, its educational application, and whether it will be distributed in a face-to-face or online course and if online, whether the learners are enrolled at the institution where the material will be used.

At Duke, faculty have many resources to help navigate issues around copyright and online teaching.

Duke ScholarWorks

Duke ScholarWorks is a great resource offered by Duke University Libraries and the Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication. ScholarWorks includes a full set of services that covers copyright exceptions for teaching and gives classroom use case examples. Information on open access, open access journals, and the benefits of instructors using open educational resources (OERs) are all available on ScholarWorks.

Open Access – DukeSpace

Duke has an open access policy to make your scholarly work available to anyone who wants to access it. Faculty can post scholarly content in Duke’s open repository DukeSpace. Faculty who use articles or journals that are behind a paywall can locate research articles using Open Access Button or read millions of peer-reviewed journal articles through unpaywall.

Scholars@Duke and Elements

Faculty deposit their open access work to DukeSpace via the Elements publications management system, an online service connected to your Scholars@Duke profile. To learn more see New to Scholars@Duke.

Fair Use

FairUse/Fair Dealing Week commissioned by the Association of Research Libraries, offers resources on fair use. Duke University participated in this initiative.

To learn more about fair use and teaching read Copyright Exceptions for Teaching and Classroom Use Cases. Also check out the ScholarWorks FAQ and the Fair Use Fundamentals Infographic.

For considerations on digitizing materials see the TEACH ACT Flowchart in the Scholarly Communications Toolkit.

Copyright Free Images

Heather Valli, an online course builder with Duke Learning Innovation shared sites where faculty can get copyright free images for their online courses. Start your search with pixabay or flickr in instances where the images have acceptable reuse license. Also check AP images under the Duke license, access here.

Another useful site is Google images. Check “labeled for reuse” under Tools, Usage Rights and then make sure the reuse license is acceptable. Avoid getting images from Pinterest or a google image search without using the “labeled for reuse” tool.

Who Owns the Copyright?

Google reverse image search is frequently an effective way to find who owns an image. Go to and click on images in the upper right. Click on the camera icon in the search box and upload a copy of the image. Another tool you can use for reverse image search is TinEye.

Ask a Copyright Consultant

The Duke Libraries Copyright Consultants is a program with Duke librarians who have gone through training offered by the Duke University Libraries Office of Copyright and Scholarly Communication. They can not give legal advice but will consult with faculty on how copyright applies to their own research, scholarship and teaching. Find your copyright consultant here.

To learn more about these resources and others available to help faculty with copyright and online teaching, contact Duke Learning Innovation.