How to Use Audio

Whenever you're tempted to use copyrighted audio, ask yourself:

How important is this audio for fulfilling the mission of your lesson?

  • If you believe it is a vital part of the lesson, make your best effort to contact the copyright holder for permission.

  • If you think you have a strong case for using audio under the Fair Use exceptions or the Teach Act, reflect on the risk-reward ratio in applying these remedies. .

Remember, you want to use copyrighted material in such a way as to not end up in a lawsuit. Sure, you may prevail in court, but at what cost? You may win your case, but be seriously financially damaged, so think carefully before using copyrighted material without permission.

The best policy is: "When in doubt, link out!"

Frequently Asked Questions about Audio:

I'd like to share a portion of an opera in my online course. How much can I share legally under Fair Use or Teach Act?

  • Fair Use is probably your best bet. You may play however much aligns in your favor when implementing the Fair Use test. For example:
  • You might play 15 minutes of an opera if your use is for criticism, comment, teaching (this weighs in your favor for factor one), however operas are usually highly creative and fictional, so this weighs against factor two of the fair use test.
  • If you're playing 20 minutes of an hour-and-a-half long opera, this is only roughly 22 percent of the entire opera (which most likely weighs in favor of factor three — the amount of the copyrighted item you're using).
  • Further, if your use is transformational, this supports factor three if you're using the opera for a purpose different from the purpose for which it was created.
  • And your use probably doesn't have a significant effect on the market if there is no readily available licensing mechanism to play the opera for a class, UNT owns a lawfully-acquired copy of the opera, and you're restricting access to students only. In this case, you probably meet three of the four factors, thus your use is probably fair.

You must walk through this Fair Use analysis for each desired use.

I'd like to use a set of foreign recordings that I obtained while overseas. I don't think they're copyrighted. Is that Okay?

  • First, you need to complete due diligence to attempt to determine whether they are copyrighted. To make such a determination, search in the WATCH databaseBMI, or SESAC. If all else fails, perform internet searches to see if you can determine the works' copyright status. If, after conducting due diligence, you remain uncertain about the recordings' copyright status, determine whether you may apply Fair Use and proceed with caution.

What about Podcasts from PBS — do I need permission to use those?

  • Check to see if PBS offers a readily available licensing mechanism for such use. If so, apply their license for use. If not, determine whether Fair Use applies. If you're using the podcast for a face-to-face class, such use may be permitted via section 110(1) of the United States Copyright Act.

May I play music or a presidential speech in my course?

  • To play music, determine whether Fair Use applies. For a presidential speech, the TEACH Act or Fair Use may allow such use.

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