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Copyright Basics Guide

Classroom Copyright FAQ

1. Can I post a PDF of an article to Blackboard or similar site?

Unless explicit permission from the copyright holder is obtained, only permalinks to articles should be shared on Blackboard for students to access. If you are linking to a library resource, check out our guide on Persistent Linking


2. Can I use a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article as reading for my course?

The Harvard Business Review has special requirements when it comes to using their content. The use of an HBR article as required reading for a course is prohibited. There is a disclaimer at the end of each article that reads, "Copyright 2023 Harvard Business Publishing. All Rights Reserved. Additional restrictions may apply including the use of this content as assigned course material."

Additionally, from the HBR website: "...we prohibit the posting of cases, articles, or chapters on “e-reserve” course pages for student access, as well as in “electronic coursepacks” that link to our digitized content and content postings on course management systems such as WebCT or Blackboard. Such unauthorized postings are equivalent to distributing our copyrighted content to students without permission, which infringes that copyright. This is so even if the content is being used for the first time and is password-protected, accessible only to students in the course, and taken down at the end of the course" (Harvard Business Review). 


3. Can I show a film in my class?

The answer to this question depends on whether the class meets in-person or online, how much of the film will be shown to the class, and the type of event. While some uses will fall under fair use, it is recommended to try to obtain permission from the copyright holder or obtain Public Performance Rights. Films in the public domain may be shown.

If your class is face-to-face and you are looking to show parts or the entirety of the film, you are likely able to do so without Public Performance Rights as long as the following criteria are met:

  • The film will be shown in a classroom at a non-profit educational institution as part of the course curriculum 
  • The film will only be shown to students registered for the class
  • The copy of the film was legally obtained
  • Note: Streaming films from sites such as Netflix, HBO Max, etc. may require additional permissions. Check with the streaming service directly.

If your class is online and you are looking to show parts or the entirety of the film, you may be able to do so, but the laws are stricter. The TEACH Act amendment to the Copyright Act, codified at § 110(2), permits the performance of a reasonable and limited portion of films in an online classroom, which means that using clips or portions of a film or video is preferable. You may also rely upon fair use for showing films in an online course, although showing an entire film online may not constitute fair use.


4. Can I show a film at an event?

For most events, you will need to obtain Public Performance Rights from the film's copyright holder or distributor. Public Performance Rights are needed when:

  • The showing of the video is open to the public, such as a screening at a public event
  • The showing is in a public space where access is not restricted, such as a a showing of a film for a class but in a venue that is open to anyone to attend
  • The showing is by a club or organization


5. How does Interlibrary Loan (ILL) work with copyright?

Copyright law states that ILL articles are exclusively to be used for "private study, scholarship, or research" [17 USC S.108 (d)(1)]. In order to be in compliance with the law, articles received through ILL must not be shared with other users nor be posted online or placed on reserve or as part of a course pack or reading list.


This page will be continuously updated as questions are asked. Have general questions about copyright? View the United States Copyright Office's FAQ page.

Disclaimer: The information presented in this guide is intended for information purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.