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Copyright Resources

Putting Lectures Online

Online course delivery is effective and efficient. However, as an instructor, teaching online courses also means ensuring that you use copyright-protected content appropriately. In brief, instructors can incorporate content that:

  • is owned by the faculty member (faculty is the copyright holder);
  • is in the Public Domain;
  • is available under a Creative Commons or other license which permits reuse;
  • has been granted permission by the copyright holder for reuse;
  • or fits within the scope of Fair Use. (Columbia University Copyright Advisory Service)

The information on this page will help you to evaluate your content and ensure that you are operating within the bounds of copyright. They include: 

  • Can I Use It? Copyright Flowchart: determine if the content you are working with can be reused legally.
  • Fair Use Checklist: make a Fair Use interpretation of your proposed use of the content you are working with. 
  • Creating Durable Links: create persistent proxy links to content that don't require constant updating. 

It may take longer than you expect to review your materials to ensure that they are appropriate for open online courses. Be sure to give yourself enough time to review each instance of reused copyright-protected material and to allow yourself to request permission if you need to. Also, don't forget to attribute all of your sources! 

Can You Use It? Reuse Flowchart

When determining whether or not you can reuse material, consider these questions: 

  1. Is the work protected by copyright? 
  2. Are you the copyright owner? 
  3. Is there a license (or legal exemption) that covers my use? 
  4. Is there a case for Fair Use? 
  5. Do I need permission from the copyright owner?

Based on: “A Framework for Analyzing Any Copyright Problem,” by Kevin Smith, Lisa Macklin, and Anne Gilliland © 2014. Reused with permission. 

Fair Use Checklist

Using the Fair Use Checklist

  • Visit the Columbia University Libraries Copyright Advisory Services website and download the Fair Use Checklist (shown in part above).
  • Complete the checklist for each instance where you plan to reuse copyright protected content. Check off all of the relevant characteristics of your proposed use of the content under each of the four factors: Purpose, Nature, Amount, Effect. 
  • Interpret your results to either favor or not favor Fair Use. Include content in your presentation accordingly: if your use favors Fair Use, include the content; if your use does not favor Fair Use, seek permission to reuse the content or find something else that you can use, or link out to the content. 
  • Maintain a copy of your Fair Use Checklist for each interpreted use in your records. 

Creating Durable Links

An alternative to including potentially problematic copyright-protected material in your course is to link out to the content that you want to include, whether that is an article, a video, or an image. 

To create durable links that are reliable and do not need regular updating, be sure to use both: 

  • the UMMS proxy link
  • the doi or permanent URL (if available) of the object you are reusing. 

The Lamar Soutter Library guide to Constructing Durable Links includes the proxy link, or reach out to one of the Lamar Soutter librarians.

Do's and Dont's


Images—including memes—are easy to find and copy, but are often protected by copyright. When preparing lectures to be posted online, be sure to use images that are either: 

  • In the Public Domain
  • Owned by you
  • Licensed under a Creative Commons or other license
  • or, for which you have been granted (written) permission to reuse. 

If you are unsure of the copyright status of an image -- don't include it in your publicly available presentation!

Google Image Search and Flickr have filters for licensed images available on their websites, or look through some of the sources of public domain images listed on this Copyright Guide. 

When attributing an image or other type of content in your presentation, be sure to give enough information to accurately identify and locate the image that you use, including title of work, creator, URL or object identifier, and any copyright and licensing information. Anatomy of an Image Citation:


Videos are also easy to find and embed into a presentation, but may have copyright restrictions that could limit their reuse. When preparing lectures to be posted online, be sure to use videos that are either: 

  • In the Public Domain
  • Owned by you
  • Licensed under a Creative Commons or other license
  • or, for which you have been granted (written) permission to reuse. 

 If you are unsure of the copyright status of a video -- link to it rather than embedding the video in your own presentation. 

Preparing for Your Library Consultation

When preparing for your consultation visit with a Lamar Soutter librarian, be sure to: 

  • review your lecture materials for any third-party copyrighted content;
  • identify any content that you have questions about regarding its copyright status or any content for which you plan to use under Fair Use; 
  • complete a Fair Use Checklist for any content that you plan to use under Fair Use.

To set up a meeting with a librarian, contact 6-6099 or email Regina Raboin at 


Preparing an Open Course? Read the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for OpenCourseWare.

Code of Best Practice for OCW