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“Is it okay if I…?”

Through this class, I hope to gather an inventory of legitimate resources and current experts I can point faculty to when they ask me the very specific “Is it OK if I..” questions. Not everyone can stay current with copyright case law. I want to be able to provide sound advice for using the material they have traditionally used in the live classroom, and converting to online.

Most of the time faculty are afraid of using material that it would actually be fine to use. They are comfortable using google-searched images in their slide in a Face-to-face class, but get worried when the slideshow goes into Blackboard.

One question I legitimately can’t find a clear answer on is “Is it okay to rip a DVD or part of a movie and put it up on a university-owned streaming server for your online class to watch, as long as the access is “Behind Blackboard” or college login credentials?”

There are a ton of “It Depends” answers to every question like this that comes my way, and I want to be keep current, provide sound advice, and encourage responsible media distribution as it pertains to fair use and Teach Act parameters. I would also like to put together some template emails to publishers for faculty to use to ask for the permissions of some of the media producers. I have helped a few faculty do this, with success. I try to encourage faculty check with our libraries (sometimes we have already negotiated these rights) and to use creative commons material whenever possible.

The question always lingers to who’s responsibility it is to make sure faculty have gained the correct clearance for media they are distributing (or that I helped them distribute). Is it only my (or my departments, or my institutions) responsibility to educate? Or do I need to keep files for faculty?

I also want to encourage faculty to be DIY makers and re-mixers but that is a want for another post…

Here is a Copyright Flowchart from LangWitches that is akin to the kind of resources I think it makes sense to provide.

copyright flowchart
Copyright Flowchart from


Published inGeeking Out


  1. Well, I hate to answer with the same “it depends,” but with Fair Use, which is what the question of video excerpts in a class is really all about, it really does depend because that’s how the Fair Use doctrine was intentionally created: to create a framework for deciding whether or not a use is fair when, as it usually does, it depends!

    One resource I always point to–and it seems particularly relevant here in content as well as philosophy–are the resources from the Center for Social Media Impact…particularly in the Fair Use section.

    In a practical sense, the answer to “can I put this video clip in my protected course shell” is: yes, if you’ve decided, based on the Four Factors, that it’s fair. There are worksheets and such for recording one’s thoughts on the decision, but I find those more useful for making the evaluation than anything else. And in almost every case, if one is using a clip, not the whole work, and is using it in an educational setting for something other than simple entertainment, then the four factor test is going to suggest the use is fair. That’s about as close to a stock answer as you’re likely to get (though the myths and mythical “rules of thumb” are everywhere).

    When I’m answering this question professionally, my answer is—assuming the two conditions above—almost always yes. If they are putting the clip(s) behind the Bb firewall, then the already rare “no”s turn to yes.

    But beyond that, it’s my contention (as it is others’) that educators need to exercise their very broad rights to Fair Use else those rights disappear. I won’t get on my soapbox (here; yet), but I really suggest checking out Jaszi and Aufderheide’s Reclaiming Fair Use as well. Great stuff…as are their guides on the CSMI site…

  2. Jennifer Ingman Jennifer Ingman

    What an interesting and complicated topic. I have to admit that I am completely ignorant about these issues. I love the flowchart. All of this information would be too much if it was not presented in a visual display.

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