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Best Practices in Copyright Compliance

Best Practice #1: Link, don’t upload

A simple way to ensure copyright compliance is to avoid uploading material to Canvas. Rather than uploading a PDF of an article, provide a permalink to the article. Rather than uploading a PDF of a book chapter, provide a permalink to the ebook in the Library’s catalog. Linking to materials is not copyright infringement—you are not copying or reproducing the material.

Best Practice #2: Use permalinks, not hyperlinks

When linking to material in Canvas, opt for permalinks instead of hyperlinks. Permalinks are more static than URLs, and thus, less susceptible to changes in the URL over time—aka “link rot.” Not all materials will have permalinks, but many will. Having trouble finding permalinks? Reach out to the Library.

Best Practice #3: When in doubt, get permission

If you’re in doubt about whether your use of material constitutes fair use, get the copyright holder’s permission. If you want additional help determining whether your use of material constitutes fair use? Reach out to the Library.

Photocopying & Digitizing for Instruction

Fair use may cover photocopying or digitizing materials for yourself and your students in the context of in-person or distance instruction.


The U.S. Copyright Office gives some additional guidance about photocopying copyrighted materials in the “Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians” Circular 21. The guidelines allow you as a faculty member or instructor in a not-for-profit educational institution to make a single copy of a book chapter, journal, or newspaper article, short essay, story or poem, or a chart, graph, diagram, drawing or picture from a work. The single copy is to be used by you for your research, use in teaching, or preparation for teaching a class. If you need to make multiple copies for your class, consider the following guidelines:

  • Brevity: a short work or section of a work
  • Spontaneity: the copying is requested by the individual teacher and the decision to use the work is so close to the effective use in teaching that there is no time to seek permission.
  • Cumulative effect:
    • the copying is only for one course in the school;
    • not more than one short work or excerpts can be used from the same author and no more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume PER TERM;
    • no more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one class during one term;
    • newspaper articles and news sections of journals are exempted from the last two requirements.
  • copyright notice appears on the copy so that the students realize the work is protected under copyright law.
  • The copying should not replace a textbook, anthology, or purchase of books, reprints or journals.
  • Consumable works, such as workbooks, exercises, and study guides, may not be reproduced.
  • Copying of the same item by the same teacher should probably not be repeated over several years, though this is NOT stipulated by the copyright law.
  • If you ask your students to pay for copies, the fee cannot be higher than the actual cost of copying the materials.


The Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act of 2002 provides additional rights to address the need to use copyrighted materials in distance education courses. This act allows instructors to digitally share materials that would reasonably be shared in a normal class setting.

It also allows analog versions (paper, film, and video) to be converted to digital formats IF:

  • A digital version is not available for purchase or lease
  • The available digital version has technological measures that protect it from being used under the provisions of the TEACH Act.

For shared materials, the follow criteria must be met:

  • The use of materials has to be under the direct supervision of the teacher.
  • It has to be a part of the class session and not something to be viewed before or after the class session; it must be part of a mediated instructional activity.
  • The material must be directly related to and of importance to the teaching of the content.
  • Transmission of the materials must be directly sent to and limited to the students in the class.
  • Technological measures must be taken to ensure the material is not accessible beyond the class session and cannot be further disseminated.
  • There is no tampering with the copyright holder's technological measures for preventing retention and redistribution.

The following resources can help you better understand the TEACH Act and your rights to reproduce copyrighted materials as an instructor:

Film Screenings & Copyright

Whether you need permission to screen a film depends on the circumstances. Teachers showing films in face-to-face classrooms don't need permission per Section 110(1) of the Copyright Act, so long as the copy of the movie being shown is a lawful copy. This exception doesn't apply to extracurricular campus events or student groups who are hosting screenings that are open to the public. Distributors of films often sell Public Performance Rights that permit public screenings. The library may have purchased Public Performance Rights along with a copy of the film. Contact a librarian to check on the rights for a specific film. If we don't own the rights, we can help you contact the rights holders and ask for permission.

Kanopy and Films on Demand are streaming video services with a collection of over 26,000 films. Showing films from these services in a group gathering or online class is permitted as long as viewers are faculty, staff, students, or visiting scholars.

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