Copyright, Fair Use, and Media

In 2016, CFC was tasked with making certain that WCU’s media streaming practices were up to date in relation to current laws, ordinances, and policies.  WCU has paid out thousands of dollars to settle copyright infringement cases related to accidental copyright infringement, and copyright laws and the capability of electronic “big-data” discovery mechanisms have improved in ways that make this a prudent time to reflect upon our collective use of the intellectual property of others.  As such, we have been instructed by university counsel to inform faculty of copyright issues and to be careful about any storage or streaming of materials under copyright.

As such, we cannot extend the availability of any media for which we do not have an explicit waiver of copyright from the copyright holder and/or permission granted through the copyright clearinghouse for the use of the media for a particular period of time. 

Following is the information we had cause to deliver to everyone migrating media from one form to another.  You may or may not find it of use in guiding your own reflections upon the academic use of materials falling under copyright: 

The migration process is a good time to review your course resources to determine whether it complies fully with federal copyright law and related policies at WCU

Generally speaking, it is never permissible to store or disseminate copyrighted materials (including feature films) for which you do not have explicit written permission from the copyright holder.  

The Coulter Faculty Commons staff and student workers cannot at this time aid in the conversion, transfer or upload of copyrighted materials without the express and written consent of the copyright holder.  

For more help in determining your rights and responsibilities under copyright law, please consult the resources below: 

WCU Copyright Policies and Related Law  

The WCU library has constructed the WCU Copyright Resources Page as a guide to issues of copyright generally.  Make certain to check the “Compliance Guidelines for Faculty” tab in the center of the page. The library can help you through the process of gaining copyright clearance from the copyright holder on a course by course fee basis.  (The Provost’s office has set aside a limited amount of money to help defray some of these costs for the remainder of the 2015-16 budget year.) 

Please note that there are still some irregularities in the laws and in the protections provided for instructional uses.  Of particular note is the way that the law treats face to face courses differently than online courses in regard to the use of copyright protected media. 

The CFC has been advised by university counsel that fair use is only a legal defense.  It is not a shield from litigation.   We would like to pass that advice on to our faculty members, and will do what we can to help you adapt your teaching practices for the additional challenges and opportunities offered by the increased speed and reach and discoverability of online learning and its underlying digital architecture. 

Note that many recent movies are available for paid and legal streaming for less than $5.00 through Amazon, ITunes, The Google Play Store, and Hulu.  In the event that you cannot obtain copyright permission, you can assign students to purchase viewing rights to the movies from theses sources. 

The TEACH Act provides some protections for instructors capturing and using clips from copyright protected materials, but they are limited to the instructor and are in addition to fair use.  For a more detailed description of appropriate use, you may find the Copyright Crash Course created by the University of Texas to be of great assistance.  Note that the TEACH Act provides no legal protection to non-instructional staff or student workers, only to the instructor of a course, and only under very specific circumstances. 

At this point in time it has been determined that directing students to clips on YouTube is a safe practice, acknowledging that Alphabet (Google) is practicing safe and legal takedown procedures. (Note that these links cannot be judged to be permanent in any sense and a good practice for using them would be to check them on or near the dates of presumed student use). 

Note that if you need or want to show videos to distance education students who are local, the library can and will schedule screenings of reserve materials for specific groups of students in a viewing room. 

Some other useful sites to consult to see if you may have a reasonable claim of fair use or TEACH Act or other acceptable justification are below.    

 Center for Media and Social Impact:  Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video  

Copyright Advisory Network Interactive Guidance Services  

The information provided above should not be considered to be a substitute for explicit legal counsel on this topic.  It is intended for educational purposes only.  For explicit and exact interpretation, please contact legal counsel.