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Copyright Guidance for Online Courses

Copyright Guidance for Online Courses

Course readings and other resources

Hopefully, by mid-semester, your students have already gotten access to most assigned reading materials. As always the Copyright Office can help with getting things online - linking to Libraries’ licensed resources, finding ebooks where available, and much 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.

It's always easiest to link!

Linking to publicly available online content like news websites, existing online videos, etc. is rarely a copyright issue (Better not to link to existing content that looks obviously infringing - Joe Schmoe's YouTube video of the entire "Avengers: Endgame" movie is probably not a good thing to link to). But linking to most YouTube videos, especially ones that allow sharing and embedding, should be fine. Linking to subscription content through the UCalgary Library is also a great option. Much of the library’s licensed content will have DOIs, PURLs, or other "permalink" or "persistent link" options, all of which should work even for off-campus users. Contact the Copyright Office or Library directly for assistance.

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 UCalgary, faculty and instructors are encouraged to read and apply the Fair Dealing Guidelines when they are making decisions about when they think they can make copies for students to post to D2L. Copyright Office staff are available to help faculty understand the relevant issues. Contact for more help.

Some app tools that you can use to easily digitize fair dealing amounts of material from your phone to post to D2L are Genius Scan, Adobe Scan. Please keep in mind that you can make any scanned PDF files 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 an instructor needs to make more copyrighted material available to students than the Fair Dealing Guidelines allows Copyright Office staff can assist faculty in making these determinations and can also help you seek formal copyright permissions to provide copies to students – but there may be some issues with getting permissions on short timelines.

If you require digital copies of physical reserve materials, please contact the Copyright Office.  Please note that even in this environment it will be difficult to obtain permission to scan and post entire books, particularly required textbooks. Please only identify critical selections from these works that you would like to use.  

An alternative way to find course materials is to a look online for free to use teaching resources like Open Educational Resources. Just remember to attribute!

You can also search UCalgary Libraries which has a large collection of journals and many ebooks that can support on-line learning. Your Librarians can also help!!


This resource is adapted for the University of Calgary 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-NonCommercial License. We would like to acknowledge some contribution of adaptation language from University of Toronto Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office and Ryerson University Library.


Consult the copyright website or email if you have other questions about copyright.​

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