Intellectual property and copyright in course materials during COVID-19 remote teaching: information and language for instructors

To: UC Santa Cruz Faculty

From: Herbert Lee, Vice Provost, Academic Affairs

Dear Colleagues,

As faculty prepare to deliver more instruction remotely, using videoconferencing and related tools, we are providing this brief review of rules on copyright, both for protecting your own copyright, and respecting the rights of others:

Course Materials (including lectures, lecture notes and materials, syllabi, study guides, web-ready content):

Unless a faculty member used exceptional University resources to create course materials (which would generally only be done under a specific, signed agreement), faculty own the copyrights in the course materials they create.  That means that only the faculty member, and anyone to whom the faculty member has granted permission, may reproduce, distribute or display (post/upload) course materials. See UC 2003 Policy on Ownership of Course Materials

Recordings of Course Presentations (including notes and audio/video recordings):

With the following exceptions, no entity or individual may give, sell or otherwise distribute recordings of course presentations:

  • Students enrolled or auditing a course may give their own recordings to other enrolled/auditing students.

  • Faculty may use recordings in compliance with University policy.

  • The Disability Resource Center may grant the accommodation of providing course recordings to students with a disability.

See UC 2005 Policy on Use of Recordings of Course Presentations.

Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Materials:

  1. Post your materials only on a platform that is password-protected and accessible only to registered and enrolled students.
  2. Advise students that your course materials and your course presentations are protected and that students may not share them except as provided by U.S. copyright law and University policy.  You can share this information with students in your first class meeting, on your course website and in your syllabus. You might use this language:
“My lectures and course materials, including powerpoint presentations, tests, outlines, and similar materials, are protected by U.S. copyright law and by University policy. I am the exclusive owner of the copyright in those materials I create. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own use. You may also share those materials with another student who is registered and enrolled in this course.

You may not reproduce, distribute or display (post/upload) lecture notes or recordings or course materials in any other way — whether or not a fee is charged — without my express written consent.  You also may not allow others to do so.

If you do so, you may be subject to student conduct proceedings under the UC Santa Cruz Student Code of Conduct, Section 102.23.

Similarly, you own the copyright in your original papers and exam essays. If I am interested in posting your answers or papers on the course web site, I will ask for your written permission.”

  1. Include language on every page of your course materials (in a header or footer, on PDFs and in Canvas) that they are protected by copyright: “© Faculty Name 2020”

If you also include your UCSC email address, people who want to ask your permission to use your materials will be able to contact you easily.

  1. If you are concerned about students posting materials to CourseHero, know that CourseHero has advised UC counsel that its filtering tool will, in nearly all instances, prevent the upload of materials that include this sentence in a header or footer: 

“This content is protected and may not be shared, uploaded or distributed.”

  1. If you find that your material has been uploaded to CourseHero, assert your copyrights by sending a DMC takedown notice using the CourseHero takedown portal at:  

Once a valid takedown notice is submitted (which is why you should use the portal), CourseHero has a duty to act “expeditiously” – usually 2-3 days. Please note that other similar websites have not made this explicit commitment, but we do still recommend adding such header or footer to your uploaded content if you are concerned about asserting your copyrights.

Copyright of others

Please be sure to respect the copyrights of others. Many materials can be used under the doctrine of Fair Use, but there are additional considerations when posting materials online. Much of remote teaching will be similar to your regular class: synchronous sharing of handwritten notes on some type of virtual board, slides, images and documents, course readings, and perhaps audio and video clips. You should also consider recording your class to be available to students for later viewing in case they cannot attend in real time. 

Recorded classes should be posted in a location restricted to campus users, such as in your UCSC Google Drive with a link in Canvas. By not making recordings available to the general public, you limit your risk of violating the copyrights of others.

Guidelines for specific content:

  • Slide images — You can post your own content online, but images from other sources should not be posted in publicly available locations. Please be sure to post recorded classes in the approved locations listed above.

  • In-lecture use of audio or video — Playing audio or video off of physical media during an in-person class session is most likely protected under a provision of copyright law often referred to as the "face-to-face teaching classroom use” exemption. However, that exemption doesn't cover playing the same media online. If you can limit audio and video use for your course to relatively brief clips, you may be able to justify those in lecture recordings or live-casts as fair use. For media use longer than brief clips, you may need to have students independently access the content outside of your lecture videos. Some further options are outlined below.

  • Video & Audio  — The Library licenses video and audio collections that you can use in your classes or have students view on their own. They can be located through the main Library Search ( or through our audio and video databases. Students should be reminded to download and log into the campus VPN before accessing Library content. Wherever possible, streaming media sources should be used. For more information on Fair Use and copyright see the DMCA and Video section of the Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists. Reach out to for help locating, selecting, and linking to Library video and audio collections. If you would like to request the Library purchase new video or audio materials to support remote instruction, submit your request via the Recommend a Purchase form.

  • ebooks — Some ebook collections, like JSTOR, can be used in classes immediately via  the campus VPN. In other ebook collections, publishers and authors limit access to a small number of users or cut off access after a certain number of uses. If you plan on using an ebook (other than one from JSTOR) as a required reading, let the Library know by emailing and they will confirm if a multi-user license can be obtained and, if one cannot, will work with you to identify an alternate resource. If you need an ebook that the Library does not already have in its collection, submit your request via the Recommend a Purchase form.

  • Course Readings: Instructor Provided — Sharing resources in Canvas that you’ve obtained yourself should follow the same practice that you use for in-person courses (see the Fair Use section of the Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists). The University will back up instructors making informed and reasonable decisions on these issues. For more information on this topic, please see UC’s systemwide “Copyright and Fair Use” policy.

  • Course Readings: Library Licensed Online Content — the Library can help you locate permalinks for Library content that will work from off-campus for enrolled UCSC students. Students should be reminded to download and log into the campus VPN before accessing Library content. For assistance linking to Library content or other questions about Library support of remote instruction, contact

We hope this guidance is helpful. Thank you for working with the campus to provide remote and/or alternative forms of  instruction so that our students can continue their studies without interruption.

Some of this content is adapted from “Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online” by Nancy Sims @CopyrightLibn, University of Minnesota Libraries, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.