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Copyright: Basic Facts for Teaching

Best Practices for Canvas

Limit the amount of copyrighted materials posted to Canvas

Small portions of material may meet "fair use" guidelines. A general principle is to use only as much of a work as is needed, in compliance with the four factors of the fair use exception to copyright law, to meet your educational objectives -- unless you obtain a license or written permission to use more.  More information and tools for determining "fair use" are on the Home tab of this guide.

Use links to legal copies of materials, rather than creating and uploading copies to Canvas

Reasons linking is preferable include:

  •  Avoidance of inadvertent copyright violation, since you are pointing to the document on the original server, in its original context.
  • Compliance with library subscription terms.  Copying and posting of full-text is actually prohibited for some library online resources, but linking to them from Moodle is okay. 
  • The author of the article will know how many times it has actually been accessed.  This use data is often referred to as an “altmetric”; altmetrics are one measure of an article’s reach or impact. If one person downloads it and passes it around, it looks like the article only received a single use.  But if that person shares the link, the number of actual uses is recorded each time the link is accessed.
  • Posting lots of PDFs increases the storage space for which LIS has to pay.  The cumulative load of multiple documents for many hundreds of courses across the college year after year can be quite substantial.

If you do decide to post a full PDF of a document for a particular course, it is recommended that you delete it from the server at the end of the course.  This limited use (for the term of the course) supports that your use is more likely to qualify as “fair use” and also helps address the server space issue.

Consider this a teachable moment

Better still, consider posting only the citations to articles available online through the library.  Have students find the articles using library databases, so that they can practice the research process that they will need throughout college and after they graduate.

Using films and music within Canvas

You should use only as much of the film as required and in compliance with fair use exception unless a license or written permission is obtained.  Instructional Technology may be able to digitize a small portion or clip of a film within the guidelines of fair use; this segment can then be place in your Canvas course for the semester. The library has purchased or subscribed to some collections of online streamed films, to which you may link from Canvas(e.g., Films on Demand). For course use, the library may be able to purchase a copy of a film for the library collection.  If you want your students to view the entire video outside of class time, check to see if it is available through the library for streaming, or you may place a legal DVD on reserve in the library. 

With popular songs, as with video, you are allowed to create a short clip or sample under the guidelines of fair use.  However, if you can find a legal online version of the song, it may be easier to simply link to it from Moodle.

Delete copyrighted content after the class ends

Copies of copyrighted material should not be retained on Canvas permanently. This limited use (for the term of the course) supports that your use is “fair use” and also helps address point 4, the server space issue.