Skip to Main Content

Navigate Copyright Ethics

Tips for using text material in online education

To best position yourself to assert a fair use argument when using textual materials, consider doing the following:

  • Link to the texts if possible rather than making an electronic copy available to students. Linking to materials is ordinarily not a violation of copyright but rather a technological instruction for locating materials.
  • If copying a text, use no more than is needed to serve your purpose.
  • Avoid copying materials created and marketed primarily for use in courses such as the one at hand (e.g. a textbook, workbook, or anthology designed for the course). Use of more than a brief excerpt from such works on digital networks is unlikely to be transformative and therefore unlikely to be a fair use.
  • Make sure that the texts serve a pedagogical purpose; do not use as entertainment.
  • Place the texts in the context of the course, explaining why they were chosen and what they are intended to illustrate. Recontextualize the texts when appropriate through the addition of study questions, commentary, criticism, annotation, and student reactions.
  • Limit access to the texts to students enrolled in the course.
  • Notify students that the texts are being made available for teaching, study, and research only.
  • For each text, provide an acknowledgement of the source, copyright, and publisher.

Resources for using text material in online education