University of Michigan Library Copyright Office

Using Third-Party Materials for Online Classes

The University of Michigan has moved all classes online because of COVID-19. We encourage instructors to work through the following considerations to make informed decisions:

Are there contractual terms, terms of service, or terms of use limiting your use? 

Inform yourself of any contractual terms that might affect the use you want to make (e.g., read the terms of use of the website you're relying on for access to the work). Ultimately, it is for you to decide whether to follow the terms you've agreed to or try to negotiate a different set of contractual terms. If you ignore contractual terms, remember that there may be legal consequences; reach out to the Office of General Counsel if you have any questions.  

Do user’s rights apply? 

The Teaching right allows U-M instructors to perform and display many third-party works, as long as there are no contractual restrictions

Fair Use right allows the use of copyrighted materials. COVID-19 is posing unique challenges for students to obtain course materials, which in turn makes the uses of third-party materials more likely to be fair. Fair use is also more likely to apply if the instructors limit the amount of the third-party materials, the duration of the materials shown, and/or the size of the audience. 

Can you switch to other zero-risk or low-risk options? 

Try linking to the resources when possible, instead of sharing or streaming third-party materials. Choosing public domain materials or Creative Commons licensed materials are also good alternatives. Because of COVID-19, many vendors have agreed to licensing their materials for free temporarily (see a list of vendors here).

For information streaming videos for online student events, please see our libguide on using video.


Our office provides information to help you make decisions about sharing and using copyrighted material in your research, learning, and teaching. Use the menu links to access our copyright guides and online resources, and take advantage of our person-to-person services.

Email Us

Email copyright@umich.edu to ask questions about copyright or make appointments with us.

We are not empowered to grant permission for copyrights. For more information, see our guide on Permission

Make an Online Appointment

We offer self scheduling of online appointment slots for university affiliates. Again, we're happy to meet with you virtually at other times. To make an appointment at another time, email us.

Attend a Workshop

We offer public workshops on copyright. We also offer customized copyright education (presentations, workshops, etc.) for university groups, including faculty, staff, and students. Please email us if you're interested in setting up a customized workshop for your group.  

External Services

Although we provide information and education about copyright, we are not able to provide legal advice.

Some copyright-related issues are handled elsewhere at the university:

  • If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Michigan, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.

  • If you believe your copyright has been infringed on a web site hosted by the university, please contact our DMCA agent.

  • If you have questions about using the university trademarks, including the Block M, please consult the Permissions Guide from the  university's Office of Communications.

If you require legal advice in your personal capacity, the lawyer referral services operated by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan may be helpful to you.

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Last modified: 03/24/2020