Blackboard Guidelines

The guidelines for the use of copyrighted materials in online course management systems (CMS) are very similar to those applied in a “live” classroom. If something would not be considered fair use in a “live” classroom, it will generally not be considered fair use in an online course environment.

Materials posted to Blackboard under the Fair Use defense must:

  • Be accessible only to students enrolled in the course.
  • Be removed or made inaccessible as soon as the course has ended.

Textual Material and Images (Photos, Graphics, etc):

If the material is to be used as part of an online learning module (comparable to an in-class lecture/activity/etc), follow these guidelines:

If the material would not normally be used in the course of an in-class session (e.g. readings students are expected to complete outside of class), follow these guidelines:


Audio/Motion Media:

If the material is an audio recording of a non-dramatic literary or musical work (e.g. a poetry/short story reading or a musical recording), any portion (up to the entire work) may be posted under the TEACH Act – a Fair Use consideration need not be made.

For any audio or motion media posted to Blackboard, present the media in a format in which it is most difficult to copy.  For example, use streaming media instead of posting a downloadable file.

If the material is a) a recording of a dramatic work or b) any audiovisual work (e.g. a video clip or music video), follow these guidelines:



Safest Use


Portion Limitations:

a. Motion Media: Up to 10% or 3 minutes of a work, whichever is less.
b. Music video: up to 10%, but no more than 30 seconds


Include on the front page of the course a notice that certain materials are included under the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law, have been prepared according to the multimedia fair use guidelines, and are restricted from further use.


Questionable Use


For possible uses of copyrighted materials that exceed the limitations outlined above, please do the following:

  • Complete a Fair Use Checklist (.pdf) to determine if your use may still qualify as fair use.


Dangerous Use



a. Motion Media: Embedding an entire film into a presentation.

b. Music Video: Embedding an music video into a presentation.



Usage Guidelines A-Z