I have an instructor who asked if it would be violating copyright infringement if she shares articles from her personal Continuing Education Units (CEU) account subscription with her students as class reading assignments.
NOTE: This question arose during the scramble for online resources during the nation’s response to COVID-19. Click here for a full array of COVID-19-related questions about library operations and copyright matters impacted by pandemic response.
It might be copyright infringement, but there is another concern: it could also violate the terms of the contract (the subscription agreement) between the teacher and the CEU provider.
The problem is that not only do such subscription sites have basic, contractual terms governing the actions of all subscribers, but the individual articles may have different (less or more restrictive) terms, too.
For example, I tooled around IACET (a major CEU provider)’s website and found a wide range of copyright and licensing terms. In some places, IACET had a very strict license that bars sharing materials. In other places, I found language encouraging IACET’s leadership to adopt language promoting the sharing of articles, particularly those that reinforce IACET’s standards and values.
My best guidance must be: the teacher should evaluate their personal subscription agreement and terms for each article on a case-by-case basis. For instance, it looks like IACET has taken a variable approach, so some content might actually be free to use. Other material might be licensed for purposes of instruction—but only to the institution holding the license. Each CEU provider will differ.
Only by reviewing the teacher’s contract with the provider, and the relevant content terms, can this question be answered. And in these difficult times, calling them to ask for permission for the duration of the state of emergency might work.
Barring that, I am always very wary of any solution to educational content needs that relies on the individual instructor, rather than the institution (who, among other things, has better insurance), to take risks, so hopefully the school can assist with getting the right content, or finding a solution under copyright Section 108, 110, or 107.