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Distinguishing Between Copyright and Right of Privacy in Online Teaching

As the U of Utah moves to online teaching, get clear on the difference between copyright and privacy with this guide.

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What's the difference between copyright and privacy?

While both involving rights on an individual basis, copyright and privacy represent distinct concepts. "Rights" in general are at play when talking about both, but copyright protects works of authorship while privacy protects information about individuals. This guide offers a quick, brief distinction between the two to help professors and instructors at the University of Utah navigate online teaching during the pandemic.


Basic definition

Copyright is a system of rights and exceptions spelled out in the Copyright Act (Title 17) that defines

  • authorship

  • ownership

  • re-use of content


Some concepts

The main concepts of privacy that have built over time through HIPPA, FERPA, and other privacy regulations include the right:

  • to be let alone
  • enjoy seclusion/solitude
  • free of public disclosure and/or embarrassing private facts
  • protected from publication of facts that place an individual in a false light to the public
  • prevent the use of an individual’s name/portrait/image for trade purposes



Permission to re-use someone else's work

When you re-use a copyrighted work of authorship created by someone other than you, you get their permission or you look to see if your re-use fits within the U of Utah policy on reuse of copyrighted works (linked below). 

When you're an author & rights holder, you get to decide on what to do with your work, including

  • reproducing the work in copies
  • distributing the work publicly
  • displaying the work publicly
  • preparing derivative works
  • performing the work publicly
  • for sound recordings, transmitting publicly*

The U of Utah has a copyright ownership policy that helps spell out who has rights to works created on campus. Briefly:

  • students own the works they create for a class
  • absent other agreements, professors own the content they create for a class

Copyright ownership & reuse policies are available for reading here

*The U of U has blanket music licenses with ASCAP, SESAC, BMI, and GMR. For Zoom-based courses that are live and will not be recorded, professors & instructors could use the blanket licenses. Check the catalogs (linked in the line above) of each licensor to see if the song you want to use is listed. Faculty will need to consider purchasing the digital versions of songs they want to use (and that are listed in these databases) in their classes since the library primarily only has CDs and only a few streaming music resources (linked below). Please note that the blanket licenses do not permit any recording of the music. If you record your live class session and want to include music, use permission-free or other library-licensed music resources


Informed Consent

Informing students

FERPA protects records about a student enrolled in a school. Letting students know if they will be recorded is a best practice in terms of privacy. With FERPA, a teacher would not be able to share the video recording with those outside the class.

Some great sample wording comes from Loyola University of Chicago Office of Online Learning:

"In this class software will be used to record live class discussions. As a student in this class, your participation in live class discussions will be recorded. These recordings will be made available only to students enrolled in the class, to assist those who cannot attend the live session or to serve as a resource for those who would like to review content that was presented. All recordings will become unavailable to students in the class when the course is unpublished [...] Students who prefer to participate via audio only will be allowed to disable their video camera so only audio will be captured. Please discuss this option with your instructor."

Good Books & Resources

Books & websites to read

Mass Media Law by Clay Calvert, et al.

Privacy and the Right of Publicity: An ABP Practical Guide. 1981 by Faustin F. Jehl 

FAQs on Videos and Photos under FERPA

Guidance for Recording Class Sessions from Online Educators Network

Tips on Promoting Good Etiquette for Zoom-based Classes

Marriott Library Eccles Library Quinney Law Library