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Bonus Webinar Q&A with Erin Ryan

This Q&A is designed to provide accurate information regarding the application of copyright law for educators. Nothing in this Q&A is intended to constitute legal advice. If legal advice is required, the reader should consult a licensed attorney. Neither ABC-CLIO, LLC, nor the presenters makes any warranties or representations concerning the information contained in this webinar or the use to which it is put.

In this webinar bonus, presenter Erin Ryan answers the audience questions that were asked during "'Is That Fair Use?': Copyright in Schools, Conferences, and Publications."

Alice asks: Is it fair use to provide a PDF copy of a book that we have in print to a student?

Hi, Alice! First off, if the book was published prior to 1924, or if it is out of copyright, then yes, you can do that. Otherwise, unfortunately, sharing a PDF of an entire book wouldn't qualify as a fair use. Per Factor 1, while your use is educational, it isn't transformative—you'd just be reproducing the text as-is. Factor 3, which looks at the amount of material being used, would also disqualify this use as fair, as you're reproducing an entire book. Most importantly in this case, your PDF would take away potential income from the original creator of the material (that's Factor 4). The TEACH Act also prohibits this sort of thing, saying that if texts are available for students to purchase, then they should purchase them. Or, of course, check the book out of the library.

To add to my question on PDFs. If the PDF is only available via a student system and shared with (Google) limits on viewing a document vs. downloading or printing.

Unfortunately, same answer as above. This is about making a full book available for free when a student could be purchasing the book and adding to the author's royalties/the book's overall profit. Of course, I completely understand the desire to make texts as available as possible! But in this case, the best you can do is direct the student to a library resource.

What if we have a copy of the physical textbook but use the PDF as a backup? We still buy physical copies and have one per student, but use the PDF for students who do not feel comfortable coming to get a physical book?

Oh, this is a GREAT question! In this case, I would suggest checking to see if eBook versions of the text are available for purchase. If they are not, then I'd highly recommend contacting the publisher/copyright holder. We're in unprecedented times, so it's possible that the publisher would agree to this sort of arrangement. The publisher might even have a pdf of the text on file. It never hurts to ask!

Diane asks: If using materials for teaching in a 501.3 C, we still need to abide by fair use? We make sure that all our diagrams and information is quoted or have public domain materials.

Hello, Diane! Excellent question. While non-profit entities get a much wider berth when it comes to using copyrighted materials, they do have to abide by fair use guidelines. In a non-profit setting where your aim is education, you'll likely find that more of your uses qualify as fair than if you were a for-profit entity. If you are reusing diagrams from an outside source, just make sure that you check either the Terms of Use (if from a website) or the copyright information (if from a text). Some sources allow for non-profit reproduction, as long as the source is cited...but others do not. Public domain materials are always ok to use!

What resources are there for international copyright? We deal with agencies around the world?

Most copyrighted items follow the rules of the country in which the work was first published, so I advise checking the individual copyright website for the country of origin. If a work was published in the United States, then the copyright term follows US terms, the life of the author+70 years. That said, we do have some international agreements in place that work to standardize copyright terms! For example, the Berne Convention stipulated that copyright begins when a work is created, and extends "at least 50 years" after the death of the author. Countries such as the United States and England, among many others, have extended that protection an extra 20 years. In Mexico, copyright extends 100 years after the death of the author. As these terms can vary, it's wise to check on a case-by-case basis.

Can we have more information on copyright clearance centers?

Absolutely! Let me send you right to the source: On the upper-right portion of the screen, you'll see a "Get Permissions" search box. Just type in the title you're hoping to license from, and the Copyright Clearance Center will walk you through the process from there, for reprinting in commercial books, educational course packets, promotional materials, and more.

Bel asks: What if the books have already been purchased, and students who continue to forget to bring their books are using uploaded chapters from the book?

Hi, Bel! It sounds like this situation might be out of your control. it's the students' responsibility to bring the purchased version of their book rather than using what might be an unauthorized, uploaded chapter. In addition, the TEACH Act is very clear that any text copies need to come from an authorized version. On your end, I'd remind the students (and I'm sure you've already done this) that it's their responsibility to bring their physical books to class, and that you don't endorse their use of unauthorized copies. In this sense, you're covered. Hopefully, that will further encourage students to bring the books that they purchased.

Elisabeth asks: Can you talk about copying a short story from an anthology? And what if the author is coming that week to school and the teacher wanted the students to read it in that short time, so made a class set of PDFs?

In this case, I'd recommend contacting the author and asking for permission to produce class PDFs and distribute the story to students. Your intended use seems close to meeting fair use parameters, but in using the entirety of the short story, it would be best to get permission from the rightsholder.

Rosalyn asks: In distance learning: We own the novels for our English classes, but can't get them to the kids. Can we offer a digital (PDF) of the book to the kids?

Hi, Rosalyn! This is very similar to Alice's question above, which leads me to believe that it's a prevalent issue. I'm not sure that we have an all-encompassing yes or no, unfortunately. Copyright holders (likely the publisher, for a novel) hold the rights to their work, and we have to be careful about how we chose to transfer their content to new mediums. My advice would be to contact the publisher directly, describe the situation, and ask if the publisher can make a digital PDF available. It never hurts to ask, and many publishers are doing what they can to help educators during this extended period of distance learning in the pandemic.

Kari asks: What about using a possibly uncopyrighted work (like a book online) that you didn't put online—you're just using it—is that punishable by law?

Hi Kari! It depends what you mean by "uncopyrighted work." Just because a text is online without a copyright page doesn't mean that it isn't protected under copyright. As soon as an author creates a work, that work has legal copyright protection. If the book online was posted by the author (and therefore, self-published in electronic format), then you'd want to ask that author for permission to reuse the text. If a third-party website simply has an electronic version of a book...well, that can get sticky quickly. You don't want to use an unauthorized version of the text, and you also don't want to use an authorized version without permission. When in doubt, always ask for permission.

Lisa asks: Can you use something such as a photo or song lyrics if you don't edit them but you cite the source?

Hi Lisa! It depends on the copyright status of the photo or song lyrics, and also depends on your intended use. If the visual content was originally published prior to January 1, 1924, then it is likely public domain and free to reuse. However, if the image or lyrics are still under copyright, then you likely need permission. It all depends how the material in question was originally licensed. Some images have those Creative Commons licenses attached, many of which allow for non-profit, educational use. You might also be able to make a claim for fair use if you use an image in an educational setting only, if it's part of a classroom assignment and accompanied by new insights, commentary, or criticism. Song lyrics can be tricky, as songs themselves are rather short, so it's very hard to claim fair use (since quoting anything beyond a line or two could be seen as using too much of the overall song lyrics). Unless they lyrics are solidly within the public domain, I'd use them very sparingly.

Suzi asks: We make coloring sheets for the younger students. If we want to use a picture of a children's book character as the image on the coloring sheet, do we need to get permission? Or can we cite the author and illustrator at the bottom of the coloring sheet? We got the image from the Internet.

Hi Suzi! If the image in question comes from the original author/illustrator's website, then you can consider it an authorized image and ask them for permission to make the reproducibles. If you're referring to licensed characters (like some of my favorites: Elephant and Piggie!), then you'll want to make sure that the images you're using are authorized. Check out the first question/answer on Mo Willems' FAQ page for a good explanation of why we should steer clear of illegally-made reproductions of famous children's book characters: Speaking of Mo Willems...take a look at all of the resources he's made available for teachers: Many children's book authors provide access to free coloring pages and teaching resources, with students and educators in mind. If an author or illustrator holds the rights to their work and has released authorized coloring pages on their website, then those can absolutely be used for non-commercial, educational projects.

James asks: What about posting performances of parts of plays on YouTube?

Hi James! Unless you own the rights to the performances, then you can't post that content on YouTube. The TEACH Act allows for small portions of dramatic material to be shared with a virtual classroom, but it has to be under very password-protected, closed-setting circumstances. YouTube is too publicly accessible.

Sheryl asks: What about GIFs. If used in slideshows do they need to be cited?

Hi Sheryl! We touched on this a little bit during the webinar, so you're not alone in asking about this! This is a major gray area. As of yet, we don't have any legal precedent for determining whether or not GIFs made from copyrighted content are, in and of themselves, an infringement. GIFs created anew would qualify as creative works, placing them under certain legal protections. As soon as an original work is created, it is protected. The TEACH Act and copyright law seem to specify that copyrighted materials should be pointedly used as integral parts of a classroom lesson. This would be a point against using GIFs as mere decoration in a slideshow, even if it's limited to the classroom. I'd advise you to contact the original source of the gif for more information and read each website's Terms of Use. They may instantly approve your use! Or they might be able to refer you to the creator.

Kristine asks: Am I correct in my assumption that educators who show films from their personal streaming accounts are potentially in violation of their user agreement?

Hi, Kristine! That is correct. The Terms of Use for every big streaming service I can think of (including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Disney+) state that subscription content must of used for "personal" and "private" use only, not extended outside of a single household. A full classroom would be a violation of the individual user agreement. As mentioned in the webinar, Netflix does make 30ish documentary videos publicly available to educators. Check those out on the resources page!

Robin asks: A teacher wants to record students reading storybooks, use green screen to show the pages as they are being read, and share the videos for other teachers to show their students during a limited period of time via Google. Only teachers have access and the ability to view is limited to the campus only. The author and illustrator are of course "cited" in the opening of the student's reading.

Hi, Robin! In-person read-alouds are often considered a fair, educational use under copyright law as long as the purpose of the read aloud is educational in nature (like improving student fluency, meeting curricular comprehension goals, or modelling potential curriculum to other educators). The use you describe below seems similar, as long as the reading is a one-time occurrence and the posting is both for a limited time, and on a secure server that only specific educators or students can access. As long as your sources are well-cited, and your aims match those listed above, then your use is likely a fair one. In addition, I'm fairly certain that a number of publishers have opened their permissions agreements when it comes to read evidenced by the next question and answer below!

Kathryn asks: I work with a nonprofit organization and we are interested in doing recorded storytimes for the organization's You Tube channel. We want the readers to share a children's book and chat throughout making connections. Is this allowable? and Mary asks: How long can recordings of book readings recorded in FlipGrid, Screencastify or WeVideo be allowed to be shown on online?

@Kathryn and @Mary SLJ has a list of publishers who have extended their read aloud permissions, which they update here:

Carla asks: How could a teacher share a podcast from Audible or similar account.

Hi, Carla! First, you'd want to check your Audible user agreement. It's very possible that, like streaming video services, the user agreement prohibits broadcasting a podcast outside of your personal, private use. That said, you could always go directly to the source of the podcast and ask for permission to share the original recording with your class.

Sheryl asks: What about using screenshots to use as buttons on a school website to make it easier for a K-2 student to navigate to the original site?

Hi, Sheryl! Screenshots of exterior websites are often copyrighted (the copyright status is usually listed at the very bottom of the home page, or under the "Terms of Use"). Copyrighted screenshots can't be shared on a public school website, and even behind a school server, it's a bit of a gray area. I'd suggest contacting the website in question—they might have pre-made buttons for you!

Charles asks: I would appreciate an example of how a student might use Creative Commons to find an image.

Arlene: @Charles In Google search choose images then choose Tools > Usage rights > Creative Commons. It limits results to images with Creative Commons usage rights.

Hi, Charles and Arlene! Creative Commons also has its own image search: This allows users to search by license type, so you can ensure that content fits your intended use.

Lynne asks: I have a teacher who wants to use an out of print geometry text book next year. He wants to copy most of the book and make it available to his students. We own several copies of the book but not enough for each student to use. Is this allowed?

Hi, Lynne! Unfortunately, out of print does not equate to out of copyright. If the book was published after January 1, 1924, then your teacher will need permission from the rights holder (either the publisher or the author, if rights reverted) before proceeding. The rights holder could easily say yes, given that the book is out of print and the use is educational. Best of luck!

Kari asks: Does it have to be a school Netflix account? I'd heard that it couldn't be a personal Netflix account (as you mentioned with Amazon)

Hi, Kari! You cannot stream video content from a personal Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. subscription account. I don't believe that Netflix offers accounts specifically for educators or school districts at this time (it would be great if they did!), but you can check out those free Netflix documentaries via the YouTube link on the resources page!

Rheetha asks: Would a license like swank cover that?

Kari: Rheetha, Swank has their own digital platform now (Digital Classroom) so I doubt the regular license counts for digital.

Hi, Rheetha and Kari! I'd reach out to Swank to see if they would extend the regular license, at least during this time of heightened distance learning.

Cd asks: But doesn't the copyright act allow for teachers to show movies for face-to-face classes

Hi, Cd! Yes, the copyright act does allow teachers to show film content to students in both face-to-face classroom settings and protected online settings. However, this allowance comes with restrictions and limitations, especially in virtual settings. For example, the movie being shown should tie to specific class lessons, and accompanied by facilitated discussion.

Katy asks: So...a student found a site that has full copies of novels that are not eBooks and are available for free. Titles include modern YA as well as "classics" like the Harry Potter series. I'm thinking it's a site from another country, but what would the legality be of a student reading the novels on the site?

Hi, Katy! That site is likely doing something illegal. As we want to model best practices, I would strongly discourage students from accessing novels through a site posting content illegally. This deprives authors of their well-deserved royalties, and is absolutely a copyright infringement. You could always show the student how one reports these sorts of infringements! Instructions are available on almost every publisher's webpage :)

Karla asks: A previous librarian would dub VHS to DVDs so they could still be checked out. Is this also illegal?

Hi, Karla! My understanding of copyright law is that librarians can not convert VHS tapes to DVDs unless the VHS content is completely unavailable in DVD or digital format. A DVD or digital recording is technically a new product for a new market, which means that this sort of conversion would run afoul of fair use.

Jenny asks: A student found a YouTube music video that said it was part of Creative Commons, copyright and royalty free. Is the student still bound to use/show a limited amount of the music, i.e. 30 seconds, in a student created video book trailer as background music that may be shared beyond the classroom?

Hi, Jenny! If the video was truly uploaded by the owner of the video, and the Creative Commons license carries a public domain designation or the ability to freely reuse and adapt content, then yes, the student could reuse that content. However, this comes with a big caveat. Your student would need to be absolutely certain that the content on YouTube belongs to the person who uploaded it and licensed it. YouTube is, unfortunately, awash with individuals who upload content that does not belong to them. If this music video depicts famous individuals or the like, I'd bet that it isn't actually copyright-free. I'd vet the material yourself before the student moves forward!

Christy asks: What about a TedEd video on youtube?

Hi, Christy! Great question...and the answer is, yes, you can use this content in the classroom. TedEd's Terms of Use license all of the TedEd videos on their YouTube channel under a Creative Commons 4.0 By-NC-ND license. Basically, you can use the content in non-commercial settings as long as you fully cite your source and do not make changes/derivative products from the material. You've identified a great resource for our group! Here is a link to Ted's Usage agreement (see the section titled "TED Talks in the classroom"): For our other librarians and educators, here is the link to the TedEd YouTube channel:

Jeannine asks: Same question—what about a short story or poem from a compilation?

Hi, Jeannine! Using an entire poem or short story that is still under copyright would require permission. Fair use doesn't readily apply when you're using an entire work, and while these items are part of a compilation, you're using the specific text in its entirety.

Cheri asks: If all students own a print copy of a book, can we also scan and upload different sections of the book to Canvas?

Hi, Cheri! Uploading large portions of the book digitally would technically work against fair use, even in an educational setting. However, I'd recommend contacting the publisher/rightsholder and asking about this proposed use! You never know, given the circumstances, they might make an allowance for this sort of use.

Michelle asks: What if library has a copy of a book, and records a read aloud and posts in a google site that requires a login.

Hi, Michelle! A viewer above posted this link to the SLJ's list of publishers who have extended their read aloud permissions: If the google site is limited to a specific group of users, then you may be ok. But if in doubt after reviewing this list of publishers, then I recommend asking the rightsholder!

Pamela asks: If you are doing a read aloud to in-person and remote learners and convert a picture book to a PDF to make it happen? The teacher shares the screen and doesn't share a link to the PDF book? Could that be permissible for educational purposes?

Hi, Pamela! I'd hesitate to convert a print book to a digital format without permission from the publisher. That said, the read aloud itself should be covered under fair use and those extended read aloud permissions.

Tammy asks: What about scanning in a book to be shared with students in a google classroom? Is that allowed?

Hi, Tammy! Unfortunately, scanning a sharing a single book to be shared with multiple students would not be considered a fair use. Most importantly, this practice would deprive the copyright holder/author from royalties they might make from each student in a class purchasing a book, or from a school district purchasing a title for each student.

Ryan asks: What about linking to a website for content? Is that safe?

Hi, Ryan! Yes, providing links to websites is safe in that you won't be in violation of copyright.

Cd asks: So, if my English teacher wants to show an Amazon Prime documentary, it is a no. But if she buys the DVD of the documentary, then she can show it in class?

Hi, Cd! As long as the teacher is using the DVD as outlined in the TEACH act (tied to curriculum and instructor-facilitated discussion, etc,) , then yes, she can show necessary potions of the documentary to the class. The teacher can't stream a video from her Amazon Prime account, but she can rent or purchase the digital version of the documentary and share that within a secure physical or virtual classroom setting.

Shoshannah asks: Is it okay if students find images on Google images that are not open access, but they cite them, is that okay?

Hi, Shoshannah! It depends on where the photos come from. Sometimes, Google Images yields photos that were originally printed/copyrighted elsewhere. Each photo source has its own terms of use and licensing status. I would recommend having students search for images on the list of 20 public domain resource sites we've provided! Creative Commons has an image search option as well, and it allows you to search by license. This makes it easy for students to sort by license. As for citations, students should always cite the original source of their photos. That's a matter of best practices.

Alisa asks: What about school newspapers and yearbooks...scanning them and making the PDFs available on password protected LMS?

Hi, Alisa! This is a tricky one! The school itself typically holds copyright to the text of school newspapers and yearbooks, but the images are a different story. If you had an adult or student taking photos for the school newspapers, but don't have a specific work-for-hire agreement, then the photographer technically holds the rights to the images. You'd need to ask for permission to scan/digitize/store the images in the newspapers. Similarly, the school photographer holds the rights to the school portrait images...unless a work-for-hire agreement was signed with the school. First, check the agreement. If it is work-for-hire, you should be fine digitizing behind a secure server. If it isn't, then you'll need permission from the photographer first.

Meg asks: Does that [info about GIFs] apply to memes as well?

Hi, Meg! Absolutely. Same sort of copyright situation!

Hannah asks: I work at a private school. How does the fair act apply to private schools?

Hi, Hannah! Is your school non-profit, designated as a 501c3? If so, then all non-commercial/educational rules of fair use apply as do the educational exceptions in copyright law. If the school is for-profit, then those educational exceptions in the copyright law do not apply, but the basic tenets of fair use do apply. This might allow for some fair usage of materials...but it would be much more limited. You'd likely have to stick to public domain resources or obtain permissions.

Alisa asks: I create unlisted YouTube videos that I share only with my students. Do these fall under classroom use (TEACH)?

Hi, Alisa! If you created the YouTube videos, then the content belongs to you! YouTube does not hold rights to user-generated/posted content, per their Terms of Use. You can use your own videos freely in your classroom.

Anne asks: Photography student takes photo of people in front painting, at a community art walk event. Can the photograph be entered into a contest with a monetary prize?

Hi, Anne! Most formal contests require model releases for all individuals deemed "easily recognizable" within a photo. If any people in the photo are facing the camera, then the student might need their permission to move forward with the contest. I'd have the student check the terms and conditions of the contest and proceed from there.

Gwen asks: What about student photos of city murals to be put on website - do they need permission of the mural maker?

Hi, Gwen! Since the photos are being put on a public website, I'd advise getting permission from the muralist, if possible. This is a bit of a gray area, so when in doubt, ask permission!

About the Author

Erin Ryan works as an Editorial Specialist for ABC-CLIO, LLC. She has over 15 years of experience in reference publishing, with a focus on primary source material, copyright compliance, and permission acquisition.

MLA Citation

Ryan, Erin. "Bonus Webinar Q&A with Erin Ryan." School Library Connection, March 2021,

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Entry ID: 2262731