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The University of Alaska Regents' Policy, Part II Administration, Chapter VII - Information Resources,  and/or faculty collective bargaining agreements UNAC govern ownership of intellectual property. See also this page on Copyright Issues in the UA System.

Registration for copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office ( provides the owner of the copyright certain legal advantages and the benefit of presumptions in case of infringement; the registration process is straightforward and inexpensive. In the case of a "sponsored" work, you must contact the University's intellectual property manager before seeking copyright registration for a work. Conversely, when the free sharing and reproduction of information and creative efforts is in the interest of the University and the author, the University and the author may choose to publish works and include statements that specify the terms of distribution and require attribution for any copies or modifications made. Because the University has an interest in works that are "supported" by the University, and owns the copyright in the case of works "sponsored" by the University, you must obtain permission from the University's Intellectual Property manager before permitting free reproduction and distribution of materials in the course of your employment at the University.

In answering this question you must start with the understanding that copying and distribution of a protected work without permission in a manner that is not "Fair Use" is a violation of copyright that may subject you to substantial penalties. Permission must be obtained in a situation where your use of a protected work (i.e. a work not in the public domain) does not constitute "Fair Use."

"Fair Use" is a limited legal exception to the prohibition against copying protected works. If a use constitutes Fair Use, limited copies of works for certain protected uses may be made without permission. There are tools that can be used in order to determine Fair Use.  See the Four Factor Test or the Fair Use Evaluator. The Four-Factor Fair Use Test requires balancing of factors, and as a result, reasonable people (and thus a court) may disagree with your conclusion that a use constitutes a fair use. Nevertheless, use and retention of a Fair Use worksheet may help to demonstrate that an infringement was not intentional and thus offers a degree of protection.

If you use UAS Online, Blackboard, E-Live, satellite broadcasts, or other technologies in teaching and would like to make online (digitized) copies of works available to your students, you may do so without obtaining prior permission of the copyright holder but only when certain conditions are met. The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act (TEACH Act), which became law in October 2002, expanded the kinds of materials that can be used in distance education courses, including situations outside the face-to-face classroom where “mediated instructional activity” takes place.

The TEACH Act also puts limitations on the ways in which works may be used:

• Performances of non-dramatic literary or musical works are allowed

• Only “reasonable and limited portions” of other works may be used, similar to what would have been used in the face-to-face classroom under the ‘fair use’ provisions of the Copyright Act

• Materials must be directly related to teaching course content and be lawfully acquired

• Materials may only be made available to students enrolled in a particular class (you may want to use a log-in and course-specific password)

• Materials may only be made available to students for a limited time corresponding to a “class session,” that is, a time less than the duration of the course (you may want to use streaming of video or audio content)

• Materials must be accompanied by a notice indicating that works may be protected by copyright

• “Reasonable technological measures” need to be in place to prevent “unauthorized reproduction and dissemination” of the work (including printing or downloading in order to save a copy for future use). At a minimum, you should disable the “right click.”

A TEACH Act Worksheet is available to assist you in making determinations and keeping records

Faculty/staff members could be held personally liable for copyright infringement whether or not they are aware of provisions of the law; ignorance is no protection and ignoring the law (willful infringement) can result in stiff fines. While the university may be sued, ultimately the individual is responsible for acting in good faith and keeping good records to prove that fair use was considered and/or permissions sought from copyright holders.

Anytime a protected work would be used in a manner that exceeds Fair Use you must secure permission from the copyright holder and possibly pay royalty fees. Use of an entire work, repeated use of even a portion of a work, or distribution beyond what is needed for a class are just some of the ways that a use may exceed Fair Use. In the digital environment, there are significant liabilities and fewer protections for the user, so you should be especially aware of the need to secure permissions and keep good records of your efforts. It is the faculty/staff member’s responsibility to secure permissions and keep records, but you should feel free to consult with the University’s Intellectual Property Manager or the General Counsel’s office.

Published materials usually mention a copyright holder’s name. The Copyright Clearance Center ( serves as a convenient clearinghouse for obtaining permissions and paying royalties, particularly for textual materials. The U.S. Copyright Office ( has created a searchable database of copyright registrations. Egan Library has a useful book in its e-book collection by Richard Stim entitled Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off. It provides useful tips for obtaining permissions for various kinds of materials, such as text, photos, artwork, music, video, etc.

While the TEACH Act (see question #4, above) provides criteria for deciding how to use multimedia resources in a digital teaching environment, the Fair Use provisions of the Copyright Act also should be considered. You can use materials that do not meet the TEACH Act standards so long as the use is justified by the Fair Use doctrine. The University of Texas has a site on fair use guidelines for educational multimedia. The Society for Cinema and Media Studies offers a *Statement of Best Practices for Fair Use in Teaching*(pdf)  intended for educators.  See also the Society for Cinema and Media Studies' statement on Fair Use.

Egan Library licenses access to articles in a number of databases offered through the library's web page. Typically, anyone who is currently affiliated with the university as student, staff, or faculty has access rights that include using copies of full-text articles for personal, scholarly use. However, when you include a link to an electronic copy of an article in a syllabus, assignment, bibliography, etc., it is essential that you restrict article access to authorized University affiliates.

*Linking to works is the preferred way of providing content under copyright.  If the work constitutes a large portion of a publication (number of pages in a book, or number of articles in a journal), or you use a work for more than one semester, you may need to pursue copyright clearance. Refer to the Four Factor Analysis, Factor Three: "Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used" and Factor Four: "The Effect of the Use on the Potential Market".

An Educause paper outlines a case "Georgia State" that analyzed a higher education institution's compliance with fair use. However, the conversation continued and may finally be resolved in favor of educational fair use.

Course packs may be the most convenient way of providing students with supplementary reading materials. Before making and distributing printed copies, obtain needed permissions from all copyright holders and pay royalty fees (as outlined in #6) for the items that you wish to include in a course pack. As an alternative to assembling course packs of printed materials, consider using licensed electronic copies of articles (as outlined in # 8) or arranging for students to purchase electronic textbooks and associated services.

Anytime you consider distributing materials in a digital format (e.g. on CD-ROM, DVD, in UAS Online), you will need to take into account provisions of the TEACH Act (see question #4, above) which prohibit the retention of materials for longer than the “class session” and mandate that “reasonable technological measures” be in place to prevent further dissemination. Therefore, assembling digital materials analogous to course packs of printed materials will necessitate obtaining permissions from all copyright holders and paying any associated royalty fees, unless all of the other provisions of the TEACH Act Worksheet are met.

Students should grant written permission if you wish to use their works in a manner that exceeds the normal give and take of the students' participation in the classroom. (Be mindful also of privacy requirements applicable under FERPA when reviewing student grades or academic performance in a way which reveals personally identifiable information. To avoid liability for invasion of privacy and copyright infringement in televised and online courses, it is advisable to obtain a release form which grants the University permission to use each student's contribution to classes that are videotaped, broadcast, or made available online and authorizes use of personal identification information (picture, name, voice, personal e-mail address, phone number, etc.) in course-related communications.

Library instruction for managing information and citing properly in both the print and electronic learning environment is available for face-to-face and distance education courses. Egan Library provides links to online citation guides and sources with tips on plagiarism. Always include source data in your classroom visuals to help students recognize the need for attribution when they photocopy illustrations, charts, data, etc. for inclusion in reports, presentations, and assignments; do not accept assignments without proper attribution.

There is an immense amount of material in the public domain which may be used without seeking permission. Refer to Kenyon Potter's book An Educator's Guide to Finding Resources in the Public Domain ( LB1044.9F73P67 1999). Most U.S. government documents are in the public domain, including images. Creative Commons is a resource-sharing project.

Contact the University's Intellectual Property Manager at 474-2605 or the General Counsel's Office at Statewide at 450-8080.  

The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH)Act

University of Texas Crash Course in Copyright
-a comprehensive guide to copyright, fair use, the TEACH Act and creative commons.

ALA Washington Office
-links to copyright and distance education legal actions

Electronic Frontier Foundation
-information on active legal cases and campaigns

Outreach Services Librarian, Jennifer Ward (796-6285) email: or Egan Library Reference Desk (796-6502)

The content of this web page has been reviewed and approved by UA General Counsel.


Questions?  Contact Us! Content maintained by Egan Library.

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