Using Copyrighted Audio in Online Course

Submission Date:


[We got a question from an academic library...]

I have a question about using copyrighted materials in my classes.

A few years ago, I purchased and listened to the audio version of a Great Course called "[NAME REDACTED TO AVOID COMPLICATIONS]." Each lecture is about 30 minutes and I thought they would make a great weekly assignment in my "[NAME OF CLASS ALSO REDACTED]" class. I would have students listen to a lecture and then focus their discussion around it.

My question is, what legal ways can I share these lectures with students? I have purchased the video series at (for $29.95). I know I can't take a screen recording of them and post on YouTube public, but could I take a screen recording and post in Brightspace? That way, they would not be able to disseminate it or access it beyond the end of the course."

PS "Brightspace" is course software (Like "BlackBoard")


The question is: what legal ways can I share these lectures with students?

The answers are:

1.  List the video series in the syllabus as a course material to acquire (I know...."BOOO").

2.  Work with the school's library to buy or license sufficient copies of the series for it to be generally accessible to the class through the library (I know... possibly also "BOOO", since the student has an extra step to access the content, but otherwise a decent option).

After these two, as they say: "I got nuthin'."

I cannot endorse the solution described in the question, since both creating a recording of the series and publishing it via Brightspace could create a possible claim of copyright infringement (even if the likelihood or discovery on a closed network was minimal).

I also cannot endorse playing the series during class, since the TEACH Act, which normally would allow watching a copyright-protected recording in class (either in person or via remote learning), does not apply to materials marketed as "mediated instructional activities" (such as a Great Course).[1]

I cannot even offer a "fair use" as a solution, since what you'd like to do does not meet the test for fair use, even though the purpose would be educational.[2]

This is an area where many instructors are going rogue, because the law does not offer a good solution (I am sure most readers have thought of a few not-so-good solutions by now).  But I cannot offer any guidance based on going rogue (well, not when it comes to copyright).

For more on the TEACH Act and fair use, see previous “Ask the Lawyer” answers including Streaming movies in school and the TEACH Act and Viewing DVD materials with remote-based students.

I hope your academic librarian can assist; this is an interesting challenge.


[1] If you would like to read some interesting commentary about the TEACH Act being a "failure" due to the limits it imposes on online learning, check out the 2021 Congressional record here:

[2] The "fair use test" balances four factors (only one of which is if the use is educational):  When I apply those four factors to this situation, I don't arrive at a fair use defense (and my fair use cup is usually half full).  That said, when the use is academic, the key is to ensure the home institution will have your back if infringement is threatened; many institutions have a "fair use form" for this.  Cornell has a nice breakdown of the factors here:, and a handy checklist for doing your own assessment here:  


Copyright, Fair Use, TEACH Act, Academic Libraries, Streaming