Copyright and Learning Management Systems

Learning management systems should be used for:

  • Syllabi
  • Instructor’s copyrighted material (lessons, assignments, exams, etc.)
  • Linking to lawful online content
  • Copies of unlicensed materials that fall under the fair use exception after a reasonable assessment (mainly excerpts, portions of works, short works)
  • Materials for which permission has been obtained or for which a license permits the use.

Before placing course materials in learning management systems, instructors should follow these guidelines.

  • For unlicensed works, make a fair use assessment on the works.
  • For licensed works, read and comply with the terms of the applicable license (terms and conditions). If use in a learning management system is not permitted, you may not copy the work to the learning management system, but you may generally link to it. Students as authorized users will be able to access it directly.
  • It is illegal to remove copyright management information from online content (including terms and conditions) or to distribute works or copies of works knowing that copyright management information has been removed without authority of the copyright holder or the law. You should link whenever possible to licensed online content or place online library material directly in the course using the Reading List tool.

If placing third-party works in the learning management system:

  • Limit access to students in the class
  • Limit access to the term of the class and then disable access
  • Provide a written notice on the copies or on the syllabus prohibiting further distribution, for example:“This material is subject to the copyright law of the United States (Title 17 U.S. Code) and is for use of students in English 101 only. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited.”
  • Inform students that copyright law applies to the work.

For all content

  • Add online library material using the Reading List tool
  • Link to library-licensed and lawful online content rather than copy into the learning management system
  • Ensure that content being used is lawfully made and acquired
  • Remember that frequency of use and continued use may weaken the fair use argument
  • Add out of copyright, public domain, or open access content to provide open and affordable learning resources to the course


  • Do not scan and place an entire book in the learning management system (rare exceptions may be made for books that out of print, not able to be licensed, otherwise unavailable through any library, and for which the copyright holder cannot be identified or located)
  • Books that are in print/being marketed, or similar earlier editions should never be scanned and placed in learning management systems
  • Do not scan and place a textbook in the learning management system
  • Do not scan and place a consumable workbook in the learning management system
  • Do not scan and place a product that has been produced or marketed for online education in the learning management system
  • Do not link to or copy an unlawful version of a book (the Internet contains a lot of these)

Book chapters

  • Limit use of book chapters to fair use-  a general limit is 10% of the book
  • Avoid aggregation that substitutes for purchase- do not incrementally make chapters available such that will add up to the entire work or most of it


  • Use licensed e-resources that allow use in learning management systems and online education
  • Use open access databases
  • Use publicly accessible institutional repositories
  • Do not use scans taken from other institutions’licensed databases that prohibit use by unauthorized users
  • Assess fair use
  • Comply with licenses (terms and conditions)

Films and other audiovisual works

Rutgers guidelines support streaming films and video in learning management systems for university courses when the use is integral to the course and directly related to instructional goals in the following circumstances:

  • if the work is in the public domain;
  • if the copyright holder has given permission;
  • if the instructor is the copyright holder;
  • if there is a public performance or a streaming license associated with the work;
  • if the online license terms and conditions allow for the use and the material has been lawfully made and lawfully made publicly available; or
  • for use of short excerpts that could reasonably fall within fair use.

Except as allowed by the conditions listed above, Rutgers does not authorize streaming entire audiovisual works in the learning management system, on e-reserves, on websites, or elsewhere. Costs for such licenses, as with other types of permissions, would need to be covered by departments or instructors. Exceptions may be appropriate in situations where public performance or streaming licenses are found not to be available after a reasonable effort to identify a licensor, and for which there is no other form of access and no acceptable alternative for viewing other than temporary streaming through a Rutgers server.

Photographs and other images

  • Fair use supports transformative uses to illustrate educational concepts
  • Comply with licenses (terms and conditions)
  • Be aware of sites that appear to operate legally but do not have rights to license images (the Internet contains a lot of these)
  • Google Images is not an image database- refer to source website for terms and conditions


  • Fair use supports short excerpts