Using Third-Party Materials for Online Classes

With all classes moved online, we encourage instructors to work through the following considerations to make informed decisions about using third-party materials.

Are you limited by contractual terms, terms of service, or terms of use? 

Inform yourself of any contractual terms that might affect your use. Be sure to read the terms of use of the website you're relying on for access to the work, for example.

It is ultimately your decision 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 at ovpgc@umich.edu if you have any questions.  

Do user’s rights apply? 

In most cases, U-M instructors may perform and display many third-party works in their teaching, 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 instructors limit the amount of the third-party materials, the duration of the materials shown, and 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 or Creative Commons licensed materials is also a good alternative.

Many vendors have also agreed to license their materials for free temporarily because of COVID-19.

See our guide on using video for information on streaming video specifically.

Questions? Contact the Library Copyright Office at copyright@umich.edu.

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