About Copyright

Use of copyrighted materials in the online classroom may be allowable as a fair use or under the TEACH Act, or a license to use the material may be necessary. The TEACH Act is a provision of copyright law that may allow transmission of some materials without an express license from the copyright holder. Fair use may allow use of materials in a class (face-to-face or online) when certain factors weigh in favor of fair use. The factors are:

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

Title 17, U. S. Code, sec. 107

Although you are encouraged to take advantage of the TEACH Act and fair use, WSU Online’s usual practice is to obtain digital streaming licensing and/or distribution rights from copyright holders for copyrighted materials in their entirety, including: media, case studies, articles, and/or images/art.

If an instructor needs a license to use copyrighted materials within a course, it is best to send the request as soon as possible to ensure enough time to obtain proper licensing.

Instructors of Pullman campus or regional campus courses that are not ‘blended’ with a WSU Online course need to obtain any necessary licensing and/or distribution rights from copyright holders on their own.

For more information, please refer to: Distance Education: Expanding the Classroom.

How to Find Images Without Copyright

Search for Materials with Appropriate Licensing

Create Your Own Materials

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention how simple and enriching it can be to simply create your own images and course materials to use in an online course. The added benefit being, of course, that you can use these materials without fear of copyright infringement.

Taking digital photographs or short video clips has never been easier. Free software makes editing those photos and videos simpler than ever. Consider a simple scene or image that you could snap a few photos of and then use for your online course space or in your PowerPoint presentations.

For additional suggestions on creating your own materials (content) please visit Content Presentation Ideas.

Determine the Source of an Image and Request Permission

  • Use TinEye to track the image’s use
  • Look for water marks on the image, sometimes these can be very faint
  • Look for a © notation next to the creator’s name or date

Additional Information on Copyright and Public Domain

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization which facilitates and encourages the use and sharing of creative work. Creative commons allows a creator to license their material with whatever conditions they see fit, including those of public sharing. Many of these images, songs, and videos under creative commons licensing are available for free and legal use.

To learn more about Creative Common’s Copyright, and the different types of licensing available, check out the About The Licenses page. Not sure what license is required for how you plan on using the materials? Answer these questions.