Using Content

In your teaching and learning, you are always confronted with questions about how to legally share articles, video, music, images, and other intellectual property created by others.  Sorting out what you can or can't do is often confusing. Lack of clear-cut answers may translate into delays, doubts, fear of liability, and decisions to err on the side of caution and non-use.  But frequently you do not need to get permission or pay a fee.  Some use rights may have been licensed by the library or reserved under law. The BYU Copyright Licensing Office has created a webpage about Copyright Decisions that is helpful in answering some of these questions.  The information provided offers you some tips on when works can be used lawfully in your teaching without requesting permission or incurring additional cost.

Process for Managing Content Rights for I-Learn

When creating courses in I-Learn and adding content to those courses, the first preference is always to use original content created and owned by BYU-Idaho. Selecting cleared or licensed materials for course content minimize problems with copyright ownership and usage, licensing costs, institutional and personal liability, as well as administrative time and effort required to handle the Intellectual Property.


At times the university enters into agreements with publishers who provide access to their proprietary content.  This content is cleared to use when it falls within the terms established in the agreements.

If original content is not available or not relevant, there are other options to pursue that also will help minimize the ownership and rights issues that can arise when determining the best content to use. One option is to find public domain content. Although determining if a piece of content lies in the public domain can be time consuming, the advantage of using content in the public domain is that once that determination is made and documented, no subsequent effort is needed. A piece of IP in the public domain usually remains there.

The Creative Commons is another great resource for content that is available without cost to use and adapt with attribution.  The Creative Commons is a licensing mechanism that enables content creators to easily share content for reuse. Creative Commons licenses and website search tools can provide clear guidance about acceptable and legal uses of digital content to create and share materials. These digital resources can include images, music audio files, movies, or any other type of media. The following link will point you to additional resources available for use when looking for quality images for your projects:The Ultimate Student Guide to Images.

In many cases, the content you are seeking is available on the web. By using such available online content you can eliminate the need for permission or fee by linking to the work instead of making copies of it. But before using online content, remember that Web sites vary wildly in terms of quality, authenticity, validity, and accountability.  There is plenty of content living on the Web that does not respect IP rights and using such content is not legal. When using content from reliable, stable websites, it is important to add a link to the content in the course rather than copying the work and placing it in the course.

Before paying for content, remember that the BYU-Idaho library provides databases including full-text versions of certain articles, images, and other videos and multimedia. The campus also has an annual academic license that should be used when determining use options. Details about how to use the license are available on this page: CCC Annual Copyright License.

Copyright law also provides for use of protected content in the educational environment. The exemptions found in section 110 apply specifically to the needs of educators in performing or displaying (not copying) protected content.  The second subsection 110(2) of this exemption is known as the TEACH Act.  It applies to displaying or performing content in online and hybrid courses and involves some important requirements. Applying the TEACH Act involves posting a copyright notice to students at the front of the course and placing limits on access to the content like disabling right-clicking on pages where the IP appears, thus disabling the ability to make local copies. It also involves providing a copyright policy and training to the campus community. You should document your decision to use content under this exemption and incorporate the "reasonable" protections to limit copying.

The broadest exemption can be found by meeting the criteria to be considered Fair Use. A Fair Use Assessment should be documented for each piece of content assigned Fair Use status. A form incorporating the four factors of fair use presents the argument for each factor as it applies to the content used within a specific course. This Fair Use Assessment provides a record of the process involved in determining fair use for the benefit of any future content manager or in the event of an inquiry.  The Association of Research Libraries  recently published a Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries that can help in determining fair use.  However, unless one or more of these exemptions apply, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner before using copyrighted works. The few remaining pieces of content in a course that require a license must be researched to determine, as closely as possible, the copyright holder. Rights are then obtained through the Copyright Clearance Center, if available, under our CCC Annual Copyright License, or a letter can be mailed to the copyright holder. 

For help with the permissions process, fill out a permission request and the Intellectual Property Rights Specialist will assist you to make sure the content in your courses is in compliance with the campus copyright policy and U.S. Copyright Law.

Some of the content on this page is from a FAQ created by copyright scholar Peggy Hoon, Scholarly Communications Librarian for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and from the Know Your Copy Rights brochure from the Association of Research Libraries.