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Rutgers University Libraries

Library Resources for Teaching Online: Comply with Copyright

This guide contains library resources for teaching online classes.

This page does not offer legal advice about copyright.  We want you to focus on teaching your course, rather than negotiating the complex landscape of copyrights.  We therefore offer answers to some of the frequently asked questions.  If you are interested in learning more about copyrights, visit our Library guide on Copyright Issues for Classroom and Online Teaching.

Frequently Asked Questions about Copyrights Related to Online Courses

Under Construction:


Do any of the following questions sound familiar to you?  We put together some answers for you.  The key here is not to be an expert in copyrights, but to exercise caution and find alternatives while providing access to the course materials for your online class.

Did I violate copyright when I placed PDFs of journal articles in my online course for students to read?

Maybe. Every article must be checked for licensing or fair use. It is always easier to link to an article than to place it directly into the course.

I used to play a documentary film on DVD for my students in a classroom. Now I am teaching the same course online. How do I let my students watch the film?

Contact the Libraries to arrange for a streaming version of the documentary. We may already have it in our collection! If not, we will work with you to obtain it.

I want my students to read one to two chapters of each book related to my course.  Can't I scan the pages into PDF and make them available in my online course?  It sounds so much easier and convenient for my students.


Who is going to find out if my course is copyright compliant? Are we being too cautious?  Why can't I argue that the PDFs in my content management system for my students are "fair use?"

All teaching faculty are responsible for making sure that their course materials comply with copyright law.  A numbers of lawsuits, some of which are ongoing, were filed against universities for distributing electronic copies of copyrighted materials.  Undoubtedly,  the verdicts will have implications for broader conflicts about fair use and copyright infringement in the academia.  Instead of having the risk of copyright infringement, we encourage teaching faculty to link to the library resources.  Linking to the articles, instead of storing the PDFs in your online course, does not violate copyrights.

I heard about "Orphan Works".  How do I know if one of my course readings is one of the "Orphan Works" and can be placed in my online course?


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