Copyright Considerations for Online Teaching


Pedagogical and technical issues may make the shift from in-person to online teaching challenging, but copyright concerns should not pose a significant barrier.

Overall points to keep in mind:

1. Most of the legal issues are the same in both online and offline contexts.
2. If it was okay to do in class, it is often okay to do online — especially when your online access is limited to the same enrolled students.
3. You can continue to apply the Dalhousie Fair Dealing guidelines.

Consult the Dalhousie Libraries Copyright Office website or email copyright.office@dal.ca if you have other questions about copyright.

Slide images

Just as it is legal to show slides with images in class, it is generally legal to show them to students using live video conferencing or recorded videos, as long as your new course video is being shared through a password-protected course website like Brightspace.

Many instructors routinely post a copy of their slides as a file for students to access after in-person course meetings. In most cases, faculty will own the copyright to lecture material, have licences to use material in their slides, or your use of third party material may fall within the fair dealing guidelines. If you are uncertain about ownership of intellectual property, check your collective agreement or employment contract. If you are incorporating third-party materials into your lessons, you should follow Dalhousie Fair Dealing guidelines, use openly licensed resources (e.g. Creative Commons licenses), or use with permission or a licence.

Multimedia viewing/listening

Showing an entire movie, film, or musical work online does present more of a copyright issue than playing it in class, but there are numerous options to facilitate educational use of multimedia.

Dalhousie Libraries subscribes to several licensed streaming video content providers, which you can use in your online course. Check your subject guide or speak to your liaison librarian for relevant video/media content.

The Libraries may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media, but it can take time to seek permission for these resources, it may not always be feasible, and not all video materials can be streamed. Some instructors may recommend the use of commercial streaming options like Netflix, Crave or Disney Plus; however, this may introduce a cost for students. Not all students have access to these platforms, they may face internet connectivity issues that will impede their use of such platforms, and the terms of use for these services are often limited to personal/home use.

Playing audio or video of legally obtained physical media (e.g. DVDs or CDs) during an in-person class session is permitted under section 29.5 of The Copyright Act. The copyright exception for distance education, s. 30.01, allows the application of section 29.5 to a distance environment, but certain requirements need to be met. For more information on showing films on Brightspace, please contact copyright.office@dal.ca

Sharing your own videos

In terms of copyright, the best option for sharing class lectures and other video is Panopto. Panopto provides storage and streaming of videos, can be embedded in Brightspace, and has settings that allow you to protect your own lecture material, as well as safely share other material within the limits of licences and other restrictions. For more information on Panopto, contact support@dal.ca

If you are already using online platforms like YouTube to teach, remember to be copyright compliant. Some copyright exceptions for education will not apply to public sharing through a service like YouTube. It is more likely that videos posted on YouTube may encounter some automated copyright enforcement, such as a takedown notice or disabling of included audio or video content. These automated enforcement tools are often incorrect when they flag audio, video, or images included in instructional videos, and often do not consider copyright exceptions, such as fair dealing. If you encounter something like this on YouTube, it is possible to dispute it; however, disputing these claims may take a long time, and success is not guaranteed.

Course readings and other resources

By this point in the term, your students have likely already accessed most of the assigned reading materials. As always, Course Reserves can help with getting things online — linking to the Libraries’ licensed resources, finding eBooks where available, and more.

If you want to share additional materials with students as you revise instructional plans, or if you want students to share more resources with each other in an online discussion board, keep in mind some simple guidelines below. 

Linking 

Linking to publicly available online content like news websites, existing online videos, and other sites is rarely a copyright issue; however, it is better not to link to existing content that looks like it is infringing on copyright itself (Piratedude902’s YouTube video of the entire “Avengers: Endgame” movie is probably not a good video to link to). But, linking to most YouTube videos, especially ones that allow sharing and embedding, should be fine.

Linking to content through the Dalhousie Libraries’ subscriptions is also a great option. Much of the library’s licensed content will have DOIs, or other "permalink" or “persistent link” options. Consult the stable linking tutorial, or contact the Dal Libraries directly for assistance with stable linking via copyright.office@dal.ca or through LiveHelp

Sharing copies and scanning

Making copies of new materials for students (by downloading and uploading files, or by scanning from physical documents) can present some copyright issues, but they're not different from those involved in deciding whether to share something online with your students when you are meeting in person.

At Dalhousie, faculty and instructors are encouraged to read and apply the Fair Dealing Guidelines when they using copyrighted material. The Copyright Office is available to help faculty understand the relevant issues. Contact copyright.office@dal.ca for help.

Some app tools that you can use to easily digitize material include Genius Scan and Adobe Scan. Please ensure the amount of content you post to Brightspace conforms with the fair dealing guidelines. You can make any scanned PDF file more accessible for your students by using an online optical character recognition (OCR) online tool that can be used to convert "non-selectable" text files into machine-readable or recognized text.

When you need to make more copyrighted material available than Fair Dealing allows, library staff in Course Reserves can assist you to make these determinations and help you seek formal copyright permissions. Please note: There may be some issues with getting permissions on short timelines.

An alternative way to find course materials is to a look online for free-to-use teaching resources like Open Educational Resources. Resources like Creative Commons Search and the Creative Commons Wiki are also great resources to locate free-to-use material. Please note that openly licensed resources often require attribution. See this guide for how to attribute Creative Commons-licensed material. 

You can also search the Libraries' catalogue, which has a large collection of journals and many eBooks that can support on-line learning. Your liaison librarian can also help.

Ownership of online course materials

The Dalhousie Faculty Association (Article 23), and CUPE 3912 collective agreements (Article 23) affirms that faculty members own the copyright to their academic works, including instructional content. If you are an instructor who does not belong to either of these bargaining units, you may wish to consult your employment or course contract about intellectual property ownership. Some units and departments have different policies around ownership of course materials at the unit level, so please consult your department head if you believe this to be the case. Some units may also have expectations of shared access to course video for continuity of educational experiences, without those expectations affecting the ownership of the materials. You may want to include language in your course management site or course syllabus that makes it clear that students cannot reuse or re-post your course materials without permission. Please consult the Copyright Office’s resource on protecting your copyright.

University policies also affirm that students own the copyright to their own coursework. Please note that there may be exceptions to this for specific departments. Instructors can require students to submit assignments in particular formats, but the students continue to own their works unless the student signs a separate agreement. Students should be aware that posting the instructor’s content from your course to online course sharing sites like OneClass or Course Hero can be perceived as an academic integrity issue under Academic Integrity regulations.


The Dalhousie Libraries Copyright Office cannot provide legal advice and provides information related to copyright for educational information purposes only.

This resource was adapted for Dalhousie University from material prepared by the Copyright Office, University of Minnesota document Copyright Services, Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to onlineUnless otherwise noted, all content on the Copyright Information section of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial License. We would like to acknowledge some contribution of adaptation language from University of Toronto Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office and Ryerson University Library.