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Fair Use and Copyright: Fair Use & COVID-19

Fair Use in the Context of COVID-19

With the move to remote teaching and research in the COVID-19 pandemic, copyright specialists revised fair use considerations summarized in a Statement on Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research and discussed in an April 2020 Association of Southeastern Research Libraries webinar.

CUNY library resources provide readily available online course content. Link to library-licensed articles, books, chapters, and recordings rather than upload them to a course platform. Some vendors have extended access to their products in response to the pandemic. This access will be short-lived, not durable. Contact librarians to help locate content that is available library subscriptions, or published openly.

If a licensed version of a work is not available to link to, conduct a fair use analysis to determine the suitability of providing a copy. Sharing reproductions of in-copyright works --  scanned texts or copied digital files -- requires consideration similarly applicable to distributing copies in-person.

  • It falls within fair use guidelines to share portions of works with students, for non-commercial, educational purposes.
    • Copy only as much as is needed for the pedagogical purpose.
    • It is less likely to be considered an infringement to reproduce parts of works, not entire works.
    • In unusual circumstances, or when works are otherwise unavailable, it may be considered fair use to copy lengthier portions of a work.
  • Limit access (using password protection) to enrolled students, only for as long as it is required by the course.

Frequently Asked Questions

Materials used in remote instruction

I’m worried my students won’t be able to afford my textbook and will no longer have access to copies on reserve in the library while campuses are closed, what options do I have to make these materials available to my students?

What if I need something to support my teaching that CUNY doesn't have available electronically?

I used to assign a textbook that was available on reserve in the library, can I scan it to provide access to my students remotely?

How does the context of COVID change how ereserves work on my campus?

What options exist for providing my students access to streaming films and multimedia content?

Can the library buy the ebooks I need or make a textbook available electronically for classroom use?


Material instructors create

Do I own the copyright to materials I create online for teaching?

How does remote teaching impact the way I want to share my work with others?

What’s the difference between open educational resources and free things I find on the Web?