Online Education Center

Intellectual Property, Fair Use, & Copyright Law


  1. To address and inform faculty on the issues of Intellectual Property, Fair Use, & Copyright Laws as they apply Online (quite different from in your traditional classroom).
  2. To provide a few guidelines on how this works at FHDA.
  3. To provide instructors with the tools and knowledge necessary to meet this challenge.

"Publishing copyrighted material without the consent of the owner on District Web sites in violation of copyright laws." - ETAC Procedures Regarding Misuse of Computer Information AP 3250.*

While many of us are aware of the concepts of fair use, intellectual property, and copyright laws, we may not know how these laws actually apply online. Indeed, fair use online is quite different than that found in the traditional classroom. Infringement/violation of these legal constructs usually occur because the specifics of the laws governing use are unknown or vague. Hopefully, this guide will help you figure out what is fair, appropriate, and legal use of the materials you have chosen to provide online for your course(s).

While there are many detailed documents that describe Fair Use, you may find that these three simple guidelines can be used to answer most of your questions about Fair Use of media on line:

1) If you do not own the work, you may use it for one college quarter without asking permission. It must be removed at the end of the quarter unless you have asked and received permission.

2) The copyrighted on line media must be located in a password protected area (i.e. Catalyst or iTunesU) and made available only to your enrolled students. This rule remains in place regardless of permissions, and applies to any on line media that is claimed by the college or faculty to be Fair Use.

3) You may only use a percentage of the complete work. The percentage may vary with the type of work, but generally you should use no more that 10% of the total work if it is a long work, i.e. a feature film. If it is a short work, i.e a piece of music, you should use no more than 30 seconds.

In general, you would want to ask yourself "How would I want my intellectual property treated if someone else was going to use it in their course?" Remember, Fair Use is not a law. It is a set of guidelines intended to help protect you from lawsuits in case a legal issue arises.


Resources from FHDA

  • Computer and Network Use: Rights and Responsibilities 3250 / Procedures Regarding Misuse of Computer Information AP 3250 - scroll down to "copyright"
  • Intellectual Property - Intellectual property rights regarding work created by you while employed by FHDA either using/not using FHDA resources are governed by your contract and/or collective bargaining agreement. For more information concerning Intellectual Property in general, you may want to consider taking CIS2: Computers and Society taught by Valerie Taylor, Business 18 : Business Law I - Distance Learning taught by Michael Gough, or JOUR 2: Journalism 2 taught by Beth Grobman (all at De Anza College).
  • Webstreaming/Video/Audio - If you intend to place any webstreaming data, video, or audio on the web (be it your faculty website or in an online course) you must comply with Fair Use and Copyright Laws. If you have been informed of this policy and choose to ignore it, you may be held personally liable by the copyright owner.
  • Images/Photos/Graphics and Weblinks - If you are going to place images on your website or in your course management system - anywhere online for that matter, then you should follow fair use and copyright conventions. Rule of thumb: If you didn't create the image/photo/graphic yourself then you should ask for permission to use the item on your site. Exceptions: free or limited use clipart or images. If you have content from a publisher - you need to check with the publisher for permission to use. If you link to a website, make sure you cite the "owner" of the website you're linking to. Linking to content on another website instead of copying it and putting it on your own webpages is usually the easiest way to satisfy fair use and copyright permission(s).
  • Documents/PDFs/Flash/etc - If you created the content yourself (your intellectual property) and its use isn't restricted by any other agreements you have - then use it (always being aware of Section 508 compliance!). If you didn't create it, find out the permissions for using it. Some materials are Creative Common License if you found them on the web. Check it out. Scanning a document and posting it online is breaking numerous copyright laws (unless you own it/created it). Fair use online is quite different than that found in the traditional classroom. Read some of the links below to help you assess the "fair use" of your materials online.
Resources from the Office of General Counsel, University of Texas System

Editor's note: This website is the single greatest compilation of documentation on these subjects I have found. They cite policy, federal law, and case law. While some of the information on the site pertains ONLY to the University of Texas system, they are still generally EXCELLENT guidelines.

  • Copyright Law in the Electronic Environment

    The Overview of this webpage is as follows:

    • Why Copyright?
    • When Does Copyright Become an Issue?
    • Who Owns What?
    • How Does Analog Fair Use Apply to the Multimedia World?
    • Specific Copyright Issues
      • The archival collection
      • I found it on the Internet
      • Digitizing analog images
      • Incorporating others' works into new works
      • Supplemental course materials (coursepacks and reserves)
      • Research copies
      • Licensing access to materials
    • Scholarly Electronic Communication
  • Fair Use Guidelines For Educational Multimedia
  • Clearing Rights For Multimedia Works
  • Summary of Multimedia Fair Use Guidelines - Text of article copied below for easy reference:

    Summary of Multimedia Fair Use Guidelines

    • Students may incorporate others' works into their multimedia creations and perform and display them for academic assignments
    • Faculty may incorporate others' works into their multimedia creations
      • to create multimedia curriculum materials
      • to teach remote classes where access and total number of students is limited; technology makes copying impossible
        • if materials can be copied, they may only be made available remotely (by network) for 15 days and then must be placed on reserve for on-site (at the remote location) use only
    • Faculty may demonstrate their multimedia creations at professional symposia and retain same in their own portfolios
    • Time limit on fair use: 2 years from completion of the multimedia work
    • Copies limit: generally, only 2, but joint work creators may each have a copy
    • Portion limits:
      • motion media - up to 10% or 3 minutes, whichever is less
      • text - up to 10% or 1000 words, whichever is less
        • poem - up to 250 words, but further limited to:
          • three poems or portions of poems by one poet; or
          • five poems or portions of poems by different poets from an anthology
      • music - up to 10% or 30 seconds, whichever is less
      • photos and images - up to 5 works from one author; up to 10% or 15 works, whichever is less, from a collection
      • database information - up to 10% or 2500 fields or cell entries, whichever is less
Other External Resources
  • Stanford University Libraries: Copyright & Fair Use
  • The TEACH Toolkit : An Online Resource for Understanding Copyright and Distance Education, copyright Peggy Hoon, 2002 - North Carolina State University. Tools for understanding the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act)
  • Creative Commons License(s) : Quoted from their site: "Creative Commons licenses provide a flexible range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists, and educators. We have built upon the "all rights reserved" concept of traditional copyright to offer a voluntary "some rights reserved" approach. We're a nonprofit organization. All of our tools are free."

Intellectual Property Rights, Fair Use, & Copyright Laws Discussion (Online discussion forum in the Catalyst Up-And-Running for Faculty at De Anza College Course in Catalyst. Contact Mary Parke at if you wish to be enrolled in this online course.)

FHDA Webstreaming/Video/Audio Flowchart


Please note: For "How much of the content are you going to use online", refer to the Summary of Multimedia Fair Use Guidelines - "portion use" section.

Online Education
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Last Updated: 3/3/16