Instructors of online courses do not have the same copyright flexibility as those teaching face-to-face courses in the traditional classroom environment. There are additional precautions that instructors 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 status, and any potential restrictions.
Instructors may be able to make a better fair use case for content posted in a Canvas site, 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 legally available on the web (avoid linking to suspicious looking content or content whose source is not likely the copyright-holder). 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.
Additional tips for MOOCS include:
The LibGuide Finding Open Access Images provides general guidance for locating images that might be freely available for you to use.
If it is not feasible to create your own image or locate an open access image, consider searching a stock photo image site to find and purchase licensed content. Be careful to read the terms and any potential restrictions on your use of the image - these licenses come in a variety of forms and are not one size fits all. If you have located an image from another source, try to make a fair use determination. If you are unable to make a reasonable case for fair use, you may need to ask for permission from the copyright-holder.
If you are unable to use public domain or openly licensed (for example 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 or incorporate all or part of a work.
If you are unable to use public domain or openly licensed (for example 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.