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Copyright for Instructors

It’s important to start thinking about copyright when you are selecting course material for your students.

Do you need to scan portions of a book or journal to upload to Canvas? Do you need to photocopy for handouts?

Photocopying and scanning are copying and may require permission from the copyright owner. But did you know that playing music in the classroom, sharing a born-digital file, or uploading a file from the Internet into your learning management system may also require permission?

It’s not always obvious how copyright is involved, so let’s look at some common educational activities that are regulated by the Copyright Act:

  • scanning a chapter to upload to Canvas,
  • photocopying an article for class handouts or coursepacks,
  • Image of document downloaded from the web, student using version uploaded to online course, print version for class downloading a document or video from the web to upload to your online course, or printing it for your class,
  • teaching through the use of live TV or radio shows, or from recordings you have made of these shows,
  • showing a film in class or online,
  • playing music in class or online,
  • performing a play or piece of music in the classroom or for an audience,
  • displaying charts, graphs, or images scanned from a book or copied from the Internet in your lecture slides,
  • recording a lecture that includes copyright-protected material, such as slides from a publisher, for students to view at a later time,
  • translating a work into another language, and
  • adapting a work, such as changing a novel into a screenplay, or adding or deleting a few sentences or paragraphs from an article.

So do you require permission from the copyright owner to use all of these things for educational purposes?

Not necessarily. You may be able to rely on user rights, also known as exceptions in the Copyright Act, in order to use copyright-protected works without permission from the copyright owner. 

You may be able to use content available under a licence pre-arranged by your institution, or an open licence such as Creative Commons. Such licences allow you to provide a copy of the work at no additional cost. You can learn more about licences in another module.

You may be able to link to an online resource. Linking is not actually copying. Make sure the material was uploaded by the copyright owner or with the copyright owner’s permission. You don’t want to be linking to infringing material.

Talk to your librarian about the latest techniques and best practices to link directly to library-licensed content which may include articles, videos, and books.

Adapted from the CARL Copyright Open Educational Resource Working Group CC-BY-NC