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Copyright Resources to Support Publishing and Teaching

A guide for faculty, staff, and students at Penn about how to obtain, manage, and understand copyright issues for their work

Additional resources

Who owns copyright over my teaching materials?

  • In most circumstances, faculty members teaching a course own copyright over any material that they have created for use in their course (syllabi, powerpoints, etc.).  However, there are instances when Penn owns the copyright in teaching materials you author, including when you use sponsored research or other third party funds (like federal funds) to create the teaching materials, or when you make use of a substantial amount of Penn resources.  Please read the Copyright Policy for more details.

  • In most circumstances, the University of Pennsylvania does not own copyright over any teaching materials.  However, there are instances when Penn owns the copyright in teaching materials you author, including when you use sponsored research or other third party funds (like federal funds) to create the teaching materials, or when you make use of a substantial amount of Penn resources.  Please read the Copyright Policy for more details.

  • If a faculty member has used copyrighted material (images, sound recordings, extensive quotation) for their teaching material, s/he must either obtain permission or only use material under "fair use" guidelines- See Copyright Basics for more information about Fair Use.

If my lectures are recorded, who owns copyright for that video/audio recording?

  • If your department, school, or another group records your lectures, they they usually will ask your permission.
  • When the department, school, etc. asks your permission, you should discuss who owns the rights to the video and how the recording will be disseminated.

Can I post published articles for my courses?

  • You should never post  the entirety of a copyrighted work (articles, images, video, audio) on a public website (available to the world) without first asking permission of the copyright holder.  You may, however, be able to post an excerpt if it constitutes a fair use or is not an infringement under another exception under copyright law.

  • Under certain circumstances (see below), it may be permissible to post copyrighted material to a closed website (e.g. a course site limited only to students in the class).

  • When possible, you should link to licensed library resources where permissions have already been granted.  N.B. this covers linking to the resource, not copying the material (pdf, video, etc.) and then posting the file on your website or in courseware.

When is it permissible to post copyrighted material to a course site?

  • In some circumstances, it may be possible to post copyrighted materials (for a limited duration) to a closed course site (limited only to students in a certain class).
  • These materials should always be subject to "Fair Use" Guidelines - See Copyright Basics for more information on Fair Use.
  • If relying on fair use, one should never repeat use of the same copyrighted material multiple times.  In other words, use of an article for one course is likely a fair use.  However, multiple uses of the same article for a course taught every semester or every year is probably not a fair use.

What is the TEACH Act?

The TEACH Act provides a “safe harbor” against infringement for certain online educational transmission and exempts uses “in the course of face-to-face teaching activities…in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction."  The TEACH Act includes a series of requirements for educational use including

  • materials used cannot have been produced or marketed primarily for use in distance education
  • portions of dramatic works (e.g., plays and films) must be “reasonable and limited”
  • access to content must, “to the extent technologically feasible,” be limited to students enrolled in the course
  • technological protection measures (i.e., digital rights management (DRM)) should be used so that works displayed are only accessible during the class session and cannot be redistributed by students to others
  • any DRM already used by rightsholders shouldn’t be tampered with.

There can be civil or criminal penalties for faculty, students or relevant staff.  There also can be injunctions issued (i.e., court orders to stop doing an activity, like posting infringing materials.)  In general, if someone is found guilty of infringing a copyright, the court can award statutory damages between $750 and $30,000 for each infringement of each work.  If the court finds an infringement was willful, the court may increase the damages for each infringement to up to $150,000.  If a court finds that an infringer was not aware and had no reason to believe that his or her acts constituted a copyright infringement, the court may reduce the damages to as low as $200 per infringement.  Importantly, a court can refuse to award statutory damages at all when library personnel are making photocopies as part of their employment, and believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, that the copying was a fair use.  See 17 USC 504(c)(2)(i).

How can I utilize the TEACH Act?

In order to utilize the teach act the following conditions must be met:

  • Copy must be “lawfully made” (same kinds of considerations as above)
  • Portions used must also be “reasonable and limited” (this is not really defined and there is no hard and fast rule)
  • Digital Rights Management (DRM) should not be broken (except under limited circumstances which can be found here -
  • Material only available to students registered in course
  • Must be informational material about copyright provided (such as a link to this copyright guide)
  • A notice must appear that the material is copyrighted – our recommended text is available at, though it does not have to be that exact text
  • Material cannot be copied and must have protection to ensure this
  • Material must be protected in some way beyond just password protection (eg. DRM)

Copyright statement

Instructors who scan and mount their own electronic readings should include a copyright statement at the beginning of each protected document. The library uses the text below:


The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material.

Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research. If electronic transmission of reserve materials is used for purposes in excess of what constitutes "fair use," that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

How do I link to library resources?

  • Find the article or e-book in the appropriate database, e-journal or Franklin.
  • Identify the persistent URL for the resource (n.b. this will probably not be the URL that appears in your browser's address bar).
  • For courses in Canvas:
    • Use the 'Penn Libraries Course Reserve' tool in your course site to request Library service for articles and book chapters, or
    • Follow the directions in the 'Adding Content' section of Canvas Support for Faculty and Staff
  • For other websites:
    • When you post the persistent URL it will need to be preceded by the proxy prefix  (there should be no spaces between the prefix and the persistent URL, e.g.

Teaching with Coursera

For those who are using Coursera (, the massive open online courseware (MOOC) used by Penn and many other universities, there are special copyright considerations.

  • Coursera is a for-profit company.  Therefore, in considering whether to use "fair use" for reproducing materials, you may need to make a determination more conservatively.

  • Even though Coursera is a platform designed for teaching, instructors in Coursera have to reproduce images online, similar to how one might reproduce images in a e-book.  So, it might also be helpful to review the "Publishing" section of this website as well and to follow the guidelines there when reproducing images in a Coursera course.

  • For more information about copyright issues for Coursera and other MOOCs, please review the "Coursera and MOOCs" section of this guide.

Need help?

For further assistance with copyright issues, you can begin with your subject specialist. You can also contact our Copyright Advisor for further referrals.

For questions about use of materials on reserve, contact Van Pelt Reserves or the librarian at your reserve location.