Instructors of online courses do NOT have the same copyright protections as those teaching physical face-to-face courses, so there are extra precautions you must take when creating an online course.
Images, videos, audio, and text can all be meaningful additions to your course content. Before incorporating an image in lecture slides, reposting an article in Canvas, or adding a video file created by someone else, consider these questions:
If the third party content is essential to understanding the material or meeting your teaching goals, then it’s important to determine its copyright restrictions.
Instructors may be able to make a better fair use case for content posted in Canvas if they do the following:
Instructors may use content that is in the public domain or licensed for any use, including for-profit purposes, under an appropriate Creative Commons or similar license. In all cases, instructors should make an attribution to the original source in their slides or other class materials. If including attribution on the particular slide or at the time when the work is used would harm the flow of the instruction, acknowledgment may appear at the end of an individual lecture. For more information about citation and attribution refer to the "Citation" section of this guide. It is preferable to link out to files if they are available on the web. Doing this decreases the chances that the course will be subject to a “take down” notice.
Content developed for an instructor website or a massive open online course (MOOC) are considered visible to the public. Fair use may apply but in a more limited fashion than it does in closed classroom environments, including on campus instruction.
Finding Open Access Images provides guidance for locating open access images.
If it isn't feasible to create your own image or locate an open access image, consider searching a stock photo image site to find licensed content. If you've located an image somewhere else, try to make a fair use determination. If you are unable to do so, you may need to ask for permission.
If you are unable to use public domain or openly licensed (e.g., Creative Commons) materials AND are unable to make a good fair use argument or use another copyright exception, you may need to get permission to reuse all or part of a work.
If you are unable to use public domain or openly licensed (e.g., Creative Commons) materials AND are unable to make a good fair use argument or use another copyright exception, you may need to get permission to reuse all or part of a work. Note that musical compositions have two layers of copyright: one over the music and lyrics and another over the sound recording.
This guide is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as legal advice.