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Copyright Situations & the Law

Here are some scenarios that represent typical situations involving copyright. We cannot provide the “answer” to each scenario, as there are no clear answers in the law. We can point you to the part of the law where you can work out the answer for yourself. To some extent, every situation is different, and often a Fair Use analysis is required. See the Copyright Checklists and "Bright Lines" page. You can also refer to our Common Questions page.


I would like to place the entire film of Citizen Kane on Desire2Learn for my students to watch online. Is it okay to do this?

Issue: TEACH Act [110] provisions for display of work in an amount comparable to a typical live classroom environment.

My department purchased educational films back in the early 90's, which are no longer available in any format. I would like to convert them from VHS to digital and place them on Desire2Learn. Is this okay?

Issues: Preservation and replacement [108] of published works; TEACH Act provisions on use of digital materials in a situation comparable to a live environment.

I would like to scan pages from an out-of-print textbook and place them on Desire2Learn in PDF format. Can I do this?

Issues: Does it matter if the textbook is out of print or not? Can permission be obtained from the copyright holder? Provisions of [108] Reproduction and distribution for library and archives users.

A colleague who has left the university has left behind a large collection of PowerPoint presentations, quizzes, and handouts on their Desire2Learn site. Can I copy them into my course?

Issue: Ownership of works made for hire [101].

I downloaded videos from YouTube. I want to use them in class and post them in D2L. (BSU)

Issues: What is the nature of the YouTube video that was copied? Face-to-face teaching [110] and TEACH Act provisions.

A professor found a video about community relations in Afghanistan produced by the United States Army that has a copyright notice on it. The professor wants to stream the video on D2L.

Issue: Is the work protected by copyright/ copyrightable?


I have a DVD that is coded Region 2. Can I rip it and burn it on to a disc to show in my classes?

Issue: Bern Convention protections; Face-to face teaching [110]

I want to show a movie in my class that isn't available on DVD but is posted on YouTube in 10 minute segments. Can I ask my students to watch it in that format?

 Issue: What is the nature of the YouTube? 

I rented a copy of the film Stalingrad from Netflix and want to show it in my classroom. (BSU)

Issue: Face-to-face classroom use [110]

The history department is planning History Movie Night. They want to rent the film Stalingrad from Netflix and show it to anybody who wants to come. They are not charging admission there is no organized discussion period before or after the film.

Issue: Purpose of the display—entertainment or teaching?

We would like to convert library VHS tapes into DVD format to use on D2L or in class because the library no longer has VHS equipment. (BSU)

Issue: Preservation and replacement copies [108].

An instructor would like to convert personal-copy VHS tapes into DVD format to use excerpts if a few minutes in face-to-face classroom presentations, because VHS equipment is no longer available. Some of the videos are legally purchased, some of the videos were copied off the air between five and fifteen years ago. 

Issue: Face-to-face classroom use [110]; and "Guidelines for Off-Air taping for Educational Purposes" (Kastenmeier Guidelines).

Print Materials

An instructor would like to use a book that is out of print for an art class. Can the instructor make a copy of the book and place it on a D2L site so that the students can view the images? (BSU)

Issue: What is the purpose of the display and for how long? [110.2]


I created an online-interactive textbook for use in my criminal justice class that a publisher has agreed to issue commercially. I acknowledge that the Collective Bargaining Agreement grants the University the license to use my online textbook on D2L for a limited time, but since I retain the ownership of my intellectual product I do not need to consult with the University before signing a contract with my publisher.

Issue: Works made for hire. Is it a given that the author retains ownership of his intellectual product in this case? Would the agreement with the publisher impact the license to use the work online granted to the University?

Additional Information

For additional examples of copyright scenarios see the NYU-POLY copryight web site

Only one thing is
impossible for God:
To find any sense in
any copyright law
on the planet.
~Mark Twain

Philip Tramdack
Director, Library Services
Copyright Compliance Officer