The appropriate way to handle someone else’s intellectual property as course material can be a bit confusing, especially when it comes to digital materials. Here are some basic recommendations to get you started, and resources for more in-depth assistance.
Student work remains the intellectual property of the student, whether it is submitted for a grade or not. If you wish to use student work as an example for future classes, or as part of a public-facing resource (website, archive, etc.), you need to get the student’s permission.
Make sure, also, that either the students retain access or that you are willing to remove their work for them, if they request it. If this would not be feasible, they should be able to opt out or to anonymize their contributions.
The same essential principle applies to using the intellectual property of non-students as well. If permission is given by the intellectual property rights holder to show, share, or remix their work, then you may do so freely.
If you do not wish to obtain such direct permission, or are unable to locate the IP rights holder, then you are responsible for making a fair use assessment. The Libraries have a very helpful guide that outlines what fair use means and what to consider in your assessment.
Remember that a fair use assessment does not determine whether or not your use is legal. Legality cannot be determined one way or the other unless the case actually goes in front of a court. Neither are you ensuring that the materials will not be removed in the event that a DMCA take-down request is submitted by the rights-holder. Rather, you are determining whether you would be confident of arguing that your use is permissible according to the terms of fair use, in the event that you have to do so in front of a court.
Even after you have made a fair-use assessment, and concluded that your use of the material falls within those bounds, you need to ensure that no one outside of your course can view the material. This is easily done by leaving the default visibility of your Canvas course site set to “course” rather than changing it to “institution” or “public” visibility. This is the default setting for every new course site.
If your course includes public scholarship activities, then it is wisest to request a separate site for that material. This will also prevent any accidental FERPA issues, should any student information or work be included in Discussion or Assignment descriptions, in Files, or in Page content.
Tip: If you copy your course content over from previous terms, and you may have had reason to change the visibility in the past, double check that your visibility is set to “course” in your current course site. The setting may have been copied!
A complicating factor, especially for digital and electronic materials, is that many such materials are provided under contracts that are far stricter than copyright law alone. In the case of a video streaming service such as Swank, for example, capturing clips of the streamed videos with screen-capture tools is forbidden by the terms of their service contract, and copy protections are in place to prevent such capture. If you or the Libraries have agreed to such a contract, then the terms of the contract take precedence, even though there is a specific carve-out in copyright law for circumventing copy protections for educational purposes. Breaking the terms of the contract may, in the worst case, result in losing that entire service or resource for the whole University. The Libraries make every effort to seek out the most permissive contract terms possible, but must balance that with providing access to the largest number of resources.
For this reason, please be sure that any copying, clipping, or remixing you ask your students to do is a) permissible under any Terms of Service that the resource or provider may have and b) possible to do.
If you need to use a licensed resource in a way that is not permitted by the license, contact a relevant library subject specialist. They can help you look for the resource elsewhere.
You may also find this collection of Codes of Best Practice useful, as it addresses specific best practices for different purposes, including Online Video use and Film and Media Education use.
If you have questions about copyright and fair use, you can contact the University of Michigan Copyright Services office.
If you wish to discuss or brainstorm your particular instructional needs, and how to make your planned activities work, you can request a consultation with an LSA Learning and Teaching Consultant. LTC will be happy to help!