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Copyright for Instructors

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Whether posting an article on CourseLink, including images in lecture slides, scanning a book chapter, or showing a video during class, instructors need to ensure that their use of copyrighted works complies with Canadian copyright law and/or applicable license agreements.    

Copying all or any substantial part of a copyright-protected work usually requires the permission of the copyright owner.  However, some copying carried out for educational purposes is permitted under exceptions in the Copyright Act or may be allowable under the terms and conditions of a work’s license. For general information about how copyright applies to works copied at the University of Guelph, see Using Copyright Protected Works.

The ways in which content can be copied and shared with students will vary depending on the source of the content, the format of the content, and how the content is being used. Materials that are governed by a license require that the terms of the license be followed. Some uses that are permitted under exceptions in the Copyright Act may be prohibited under the terms of a license. The information below will assist instructors in determining the copyright status of the materials they wish to use.  

Using licensed works 

Below are some examples of different types of licensed materials with an explanation as to how instructors may use them. 

Library-licensed content

The library licenses a wide range of content including e-journals, e-books, streaming media, and databases. In addition to paying for these resources, libraries typically negotiate license agreements that allow the campus community to make use of the content for educational purposes. The permitted uses vary depending on the resource. Some license agreements allow for posting in CourseLink, inclusion in course packs, and use in electronic reserve systems, while others do not.  Linking directly to the content is almost always permitted, however.   

For individual license terms, consult the resource’s “License Terms of Use” displayed in Omni. For general information about permitted ways the library’s electronic resources can be used, see Acceptable Use of Online Resources.   

Creative Commons Licenses

Works with Creative Commons (CC) or other open licenses may typically be copied with minimal restrictions, so are ideal for use in teaching contexts. For more information about Creative Commons licenses, see Use Creative Commons Licenses or view the Creative Commons video.  

Website Terms of Use

Websites and online platforms also have terms of use that may restrict the ways in which their content may be used.  However, there are copyright exceptions that may enable your use of website content for educational purposes. 

Subscription Services

Personal subscriptions to streaming services such as Spotify, Netflix, or Amazon Prime, as well as to newspapers or magazines such as The New Yorker, are subject to contractual terms that generally only allow for personal, individual use by the subscriber, and so are not suitable sources of content for teaching purposes.  

Exceptions in the Copyright Act 

In addition to the categories above, there are also exceptions in the Copyright Act that can enable copying for instructional purposes.  

Fair Dealing Exception  

The fair dealing exception in the Canadian Copyright Act permits the copying and communication of protected works to others without permission or payment, if certain qualifying factors are met. The Fair Dealing Policy developed by Universities Canada outlines the ways in which fair dealing can be used when copying for educational purposes at the University. Instructors, students, and staff may rely on this policy when making and distributing copies for use in courses.    

If you need to copy more than is permitted under the Fair Dealing Policy, you may look instead for content that has a Creative Commons license, or consider whether another Copyright Act exception might be applicable to your use.  

Educational exceptions in the Copyright Act 

There are exceptions in the Copyright Act that enable copying specifically for educational purposes. While the fair dealing exception permits a wide range of educational uses, these additional exceptions are limited to specific educational scenarios. Their use may be appropriate in situations where fair dealing may not apply.  Ways in which these exceptions can be used by instructors are included in “Using Copyrighted Works for Teaching Purposes”, below. 

Using Copyrighted works for teaching purposes  

The following guide provides practical advice for ensuring that that the use of copyrighted works in teaching complies with Canadian copyright law and/or applicable license agreements. Each section outlines the options available to instructors when making copies in print, electronic, or media formats for the purpose of sharing with or distributing to students.   

Displaying copies in class, or for tests and exams  

Instructors can make copies of works to display in class, via a computer screen or any other device, or to include in tests or exams that take place on the premises of the university.  This exception does not apply if a copy of the required content is commercially available and can be readily purchased in the format needed. When classes, tests or exams take place online, portions of copyrighted material can be copied and provided to students as outlined in the Fair Dealing Policy. See also Using Content from the Internet, below.   

Posting scanned portions of print books and other published works in CourseLink   

Short excerpts from copyright-protected works may be posted on CourseLink for students as outlined in the Fair Dealing Policy. For longer excerpts, permission from the copyright owner may be required. Instructors are encouraged to submit all course content to the Ares Course Reserves system, so that Course Material & Reserves staff can obtain any copyright permissions that may be required, and also ensure that content meets current accessibility (AODA) requirements.  All content submitted to Ares can be accessed via CourseLink.  

Posting PDFs of e-journal articles or e-book chapters on CourseLink   

Some of the library’s electronic resources are able to be posted in PDF form to CourseLink, depending on the terms of the university’s license with the content publisher. For individual license terms, consult the resource’s “License Terms of Use” displayed in Omni. Alternatively, link directly to e-journal or e-book content rather than downloading and posting the PDF or submit your requests to the library's Course Reserve system, Ares.  

Slides provided by textbook publishers can usually be posted to CourseLink as well, although you should check the publisher’s terms of use.  

E-mailing articles or chapters to students or colleagues   

Most library-licensed content can be shared via email with students and colleagues at your own institution. Articles and short excerpts from other sources can also be emailed to students, based on the Fair Dealing Policy. When possible, share by providing a link to the content rather than providing a copy. 

Using content from the Internet

Content on the web is copyrighted in the same way as print and other formats, even if there is no copyright symbol or notice. However, the Copyright Act permits the use of Internet materials for educational purposes, provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and that there is no clearly visible notice on the original work prohibiting such use.  Material on the internet can also be copied under the Fair Dealing Policy.

Also, linking directly to the web page containing the content you wish to use is almost always permissible, although you need to make sure the content you are linking to is not in itself infringing. If there are clues that the website contains content posted without the permission of the copyright owner, you should avoid linking to it.   

Providing classroom handouts   

Copies of short excerpts of a work may be provided to students in print form, subject to the Fair Dealing Policy. If the handouts are copied from library licensed resources, such as e-journals, or e-books, the license with the publisher generally permits copies of reasonable amounts to be distributed to students in print form.  

Using media content 

Instructors can play sound recordings in class for educational purposes, on the premises of the university. It is also possible using the fair dealing exception to copy short excerpts of sound recordings in order to post them on CourseLink or otherwise provide them to students for educational purposes.    

Public performance licences are not required for educational film and video screenings in classrooms on the premises of the university, provided the audience consists primarily of students, and the film or video used is not an infringing copy. You can link directly to legally posted online content (from YouTube, Vimeo, etc.), or to content found in the library’s extensive collections of streaming media which are licensed for educational use on campus.  

It is also possible to copy short excerpts of videos and post them in CourseLink, using the fair dealing exception, provided it is not necessary to circumvent or remove a technological protection measure (TPM) in order to do so. When taking a clip from a movie or sound recording, the use of a recording device, or screen capture software, is permitted.  Many of the library’s streaming media providers enable clips to be created for teaching purposes. For more information, see Create Video & Audio Clips.   

Film and video content available through subscription services such as Netflix, as well as audio content made available through streaming services, are licensed for individual use only and cannot be shared with or distributed to students.  

The making of a single copy of a news program or news commentary (excluding documentaries) is permitted for the purpose of showing it to students for educational purposes, on the premises of the university.  

Single copies of a radio, television, or other broadcasts (excluding news broadcasts) may be kept for up to thirty days, for the purpose of deciding whether to show it to students for educational purposes, after which the copy must be destroyed if it is not used.  If shown to students, records must be kept and royalties must be paid to the copyright owner.  

The library can assist with converting analog formats such as DVDs and CDs to streaming files. This is permitted for educational purposes, subject to certain restrictions, using an exception in the Copyright Act. If you wish to provide online access to a DVD or CD for a course, submit the details to the Ares Course Reserve system. Library staff will arrange for digitization of the video and will host the streaming files, which can be accessed by students via Ares. 

Providing accessible copies to students with perceptual disabilities 

Instructors may make copies in an accessible format for the benefit of a student with a perceptual disability, provided there is not a commercially available copy that can be readily purchased in the format needed.  This exception cannot be used for films and videos. 

A summary of best practices for using copyrighted works in teaching 

You should: 

  • submit course materials to the Ares Course Reserves system to ensure compliance with copyright law and AODA accessibility standards.  
  • make copies as needed for in-person tests or exams; for online tests or exams, follow the Fair Dealing Policy
  • scan and post content from books or other published works, subject to the Fair Dealing Policy
  • use content that is licensed under a CC license, and follow the CC license terms that apply to the work, which usually include attribution. 
  • use public domain works, in which copyright has expired, or very small, insubstantial amounts of works, which are generally not subject to copyright. 
  • use material from the Internet, provided it does not have a notice prohibiting educational use and is not protected by a technological protection measure (TPM) 
  • post or link to content from library- licensed materials such as e-books, e-journals and streaming media, adhering to any terms and conditions of use.  
  • play sound recordings or video content in class for educational purposes. 
  • post short audio or video clips in CourseLink, subject to license terms, if applicable, or the Fair Dealing Policy
  • Link directly to content rather than making a copy of it whenever possible. 
  • Always attribute the source of the content you copy, to ensure the creator or rights holder receives credit for their work. 

You shouldn’t: 

  • copy and post entire works, or large portions of a work, unless the work has license terms that specifically permit you to, or unless you have obtained permission from the copyright owner.  
  • copy and post content if it is marked with a copyright notice or terms of use that clearly prohibit your use, or specify that your use requires permission, or a license.  
  • remove or circumvent any technological protection measures (TPMs) in order to copy content.  TPMs include passwords, region coding on videos, access codes, watermarks on images, etc. 
  • use content obtained through personal subscription services such as Netflix or Spotify, as these are intended for individual, personal use.  
  • link to content that is pirated, illegal, or looks like it may be posted without the permission of the copyright owner.

More information

The library is committed to ensuring that members of our user community with disabilities have equal access to our services and resources and that their dignity and independence is always respected. If you encounter a barrier and/or need an alternate format, please fill out our Library Print and Multimedia Alternate-Format Request Form. Contact us if you’d like to provide feedback: lib.a11y@uoguelph.ca