COVID-19 & Copyright at Cornell

Copyright Policy Changes during Cornell University Response to COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

As part of Cornell University’s effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during this public health emergency, the Cornell Copyright Information Center is recommending that faculty may scan course material in amounts that may exceed customary fair use limits under normal circumstances. Fair use provides flexibility to permit faculty scan broader amounts of course material than normal during these exigent circumstances.

Faculty who seek to scan course materials for online teaching should first investigate whether materials are available through alternative sources. Please determine:

  1. Whether textbook publishers or other academic vendors have already made the resource freely available to institutions affected by COVID-19 closures. Information about which publishers and vendors are making these offers is available here: This information may also be found on the vendors’ websites or social media; or

  2. Whether an electronic copy is already available from the library. Faculty may contact Library Reserves Staff at to seek Library assistance to determine whether electronic copies already exist and obtain those electronic versions if they do exist, and/or to upload them to Canvas.

If course materials are not available through these avenues, faculty are encouraged to consider whether fair use permits scanning them for online teaching. Scanning must be reasonable in relation to current extraordinary circumstances. Scanning should be limited to the portion of a given work that is needed for full participation in the course for the duration of the students’ dislocation. Faculty should consult the Copyright Information Center Fair Use Checklist to guide their fair use determination. Library Copyright Experts, including Cornell’s Director of Copyright Services, Amy Dygert, have joined together to provide resources for higher education, including a Statement on Fair Use and Emergency Remote Teaching and Research, which can be found here:

If faculty have determined that fair use applies during these exigent circumstances, they are encouraged to digitize the content themselves if they have the means to do so. As a result of Governor Cuomo’s March 20, 2020 Executive Order requiring non-essential businesses to reduce their in-person workforce by 100 percent, Library staff are no longer available to scan course materials for faculty.

Faculty are encouraged to consult with Copyright Services at to evaluate their needs and options during this time. Copyright Services is also holding virtual office hours by appointment from 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Virtual consultations can be scheduled through the appointment link at the bottom of this page.


COVID-19 Copyright Statement Cover Page for Virtual Instruction Course Materials

Scans of course material made during the COVID-19 public health emergency must include a special cover page with the following information for faculty and students about how to use and dispose of the scan. 

For convenience, a PDF of this statement may be downloaded.

This scan is being provided as part of Cornell University’s effort to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is for your personal use only, and is only intended for use during the time when University public health measures prevent access to your personal copy or a copy on physical reserve at the Library. Please discard this copy once you have access to your personal copy or to the physical copy at the Library, and do not share.

Faculty must include this cover page when sharing any scanned content with students. Finally, faculty must only distribute these scans to students using only their password-protected Canvas course site to ensure that access is limited to those enrolled in the course for this semester only.

Do you have Copyright Questions?

If you have questions about using copyrighted materials, whether online, in classes or just in general, we hope you'll find the answers you're looking for here. If you don't find the answers you need, contact us!

Virtual Consults are available daily from 2-4pm Eastern

To schedule a consult  (only available to Cornell community members), please follow the link below: