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Copyright Considerations for Online Courses


(Adapted from a guide by Ryerson University and updated with links and information specific to Saskatchewan Polytechnic)


Key points to remember:

  1. Every member of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s community is responsible for complying with copyright law and Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s policies and procedures.
  2. Most legal issues are the same whether the teaching is done in person or online. 
  3. If it okay to do in class, it is often okay to do online.
  4. Review and apply the fair dealing guidelines, if applicable.:



  • To protect copyrighted content, use our password protected learning environment (BrightSpace) to make material available to your students, and use the tools that are available through Learning Technologies to deliver lectures. 
  • Post your in-class slides to BrightSpace. Slides provided by textbook publishers can almost always be used, according to their Terms of Use. Content that you have created and for which you are the copyright owner can always be shared.
  • Rules for course readings are similar for print and online posting to BrightSpace. Either use the fair dealing guideline, link to a resource within your library collections, or link out to Internet content.
  • Your Liaison Librarian will be able to help you find alternative content, and the library collections has a large collection of online journals and eBooks that can help support online learning. Your librarian can help you find openly licensed teaching materials like Open Educational Resources (OER).
  • Use phone apps like Genius Scan or Adobe Scan to easily scan print materials to BrightSpace within the limits allowed by the Copyright Act ( and fair dealing guideline). Make scanned PDF files more accessible for your students by using an optical character recognition (OCR) online tool to convert "non-selectable" text files into more accessible versions.
    • To access films and audio files, you can link to legally posted online content (from YouTube etc.). Check out the Saskatchewan Polytechnic Library's audiovisual collection.
    • For exams, you can access copyrighted material by using fair dealing guidelines. If you need to use material beyond this, contact
    • Copyright page (public) or Copyright page (internal) can help you copyright check readings, create links to eBooks and journal articles and more.

Recording video of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc. 


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 or the institution will own the copyright in or have license to use their slides. However, if you are incorporating third-party materials into your lessons, they should be in keeping with fair dealing guideline or other license agreements associated with this content.

In-lecture use of audio or video

Here, the differences between online and in-person teaching can be a bit more complex. Playing audio or video of legally-obtained physical media (music or audio visual materials like DVDs or CDs for example) during an in-person class session is permitted under Section 29.5 of the Copyright Act. However, that exemption generally doesn't cover playing the same media online. 


If you can limit audio and video use for your course to relatively brief clips, you may be able to include those in lecture recordings or live-casts using your institution's fair dealing guidelines in the Copyright Act. At Saskatchewan Polytechnic we have the fair dealing guideline that allows you to use up to 10% of a copyrighted work to be distributed to students in your class only. For media use longer than brief clips, you may need to have students independently access the content outside of your lecture videos. Some further options are outlined below. 


Where to post your videos

There may be some practical differences in outcomes depending on where you post new course videos. You can post videos within BrightSpace. If you already use services like YouTube to teach, remember to continue to be copyright compliant. Please note that 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. If you encounter something like this that you believe to be in error, you can contact for assistance. 


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 itself - 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 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. Consult the permanent link guide, or contact the library directly for assistance via  Need assistance: or Ask Us Live.


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 Saskatchewan Polytechnic, faculty and instructors are encouraged to read and apply the fair dealing guideline when they are making decisions about when they think they can make copies for students to post to BrightSpace. Library staff members 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 BrightSpace 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.


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


You can also search the Library which has a large collection of journals and many eBooks that can support on-line learning. Your Liaison Librarian can also help!!


Multimedia viewing/listening

Showing an entire movie or film or musical work online does represent more of a copyright issue than playing it in class – but there may be options for your students to access it independently online. Saskatchewan Polytechnic already has quite a bit of licensed streaming video content audiovisual collection which you are welcome to use in your online course. Remember you can still link to content!


What can you do if you have a scheduled screening for a film that is not available online?

If you have a scheduled film screening and the film is not available digitally through one of our electronic databases, you may be able to conduct a virtual screening using the distance education exception in the Copyright Act (Section 30.01). This exception is not widely used as it includes a variety of requirements, such as:

  • You must not break a technical protection measure (Section 41.1) when you make the copy. The easiest way to make a copy without breaking a TPM is to use screen capture software that enables the copying of DVD content after the content has been lawfully decrypted by a licensed computer DVD player.
  • You must delete the copy in BrightSpace, or password protected location you posted the audiovisual material, within 30 days after course evaluations have been issued. 
  • You must clearly post that the copy is being made using this exception. For example: “You are receiving access to this teaching resource under s. 30.01 of the Copyright Act, for use in this class only. If you retain a copy,delete the copy 30 days after you have received the final evaluation for the course.” 


One way to meet the requirements of this section may be to live-stream the screening (accessible only to your students).  If you do make a recording, please contact the to ensure that you meet the requirements above.


Ownership of online course materials  

Instructors may want to include language in their course management site or course syllabus that makes it clear that students cannot reuse or re-post their instructor’s course materials without permission. 


Please note that students should be aware that posting instructors content from your course to on-line course sharing sites like OneClass or Course Hero can be perceived as an academic integrity issue under the Student Code of Conduct.


Consult the library’s internal copyright page or if you have other questions about copyright. 


This resource has been adapted for Canadian universities by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries from material prepared by the Copyright Office, University of Minnesota document Copyright Services, Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online. Unless otherwise noted, all content 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. 


Students, staff, and faculty at Saskatchewan Polytechnic create, modify, and reproduce copyright-protected materials daily during their learning, teaching, and research activities. This webpage provides information about copyright and how it applies to you. It will help you understand your rights and responsibilities with respect to copyright and how to make decisions about using copyrighted materials. 


The Copyright Office is here to support you while you navigate copyright issues. If you have any questions about copyright, please contact us at