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Copyright for Online Teaching

Copyright for Online Teaching

Copyright tips for transitioning to online course delivery:

Key points to remember:

  1. Most of the legal issues are the same whether instruction is in person or online.
  2. If it was okay to do in class, it is likely okay online – especially if online access is limited to the same enrolled students (e.g. D2L or emails to students).
  3. You can continue to apply MRU’s Fair Dealing Guidelines online.

Additional points:

  • Use password-protected systems like D2L to make material available to students enrolled in your class, and see if you can use Google to deliver lectures with copyrighted content.
  • Post in-class slides to D2L. Slides provided by textbook publishers can almost always be used, according to their Terms of Use.
  • Course readings rules for print and electronic materials in D2L are similar. Stick to MRU’s Fair Dealing Guidelines, the Library’s electronic resources, or link out to legally uploaded content on the Internet. Legally uploaded means content that was clearly uploaded by the copyright owner or with their permission and that is not behind any form of login or password protection.
  • Contact MRU’s Copyright Advisor at to check license terms, and assess legality of content on the Internet, or if you need to use more than fair dealing permits.
  • Your Subject/Liaison Librarian may be able to help you find alternative content as the MRU Library has a large collection of online journals and e-books that can help support online learning. Your librarian can also help you find openly licensed teaching materials like Open Educational Resources (OER).
  • Use phone apps like Genius Scan or Adobe Scan to easily scan to post print materials to D2L within the limits allowed by the Fair Dealing Guidelines. 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.
  • Sharing audiovisual material like films and audio files is more complex, but remember that you can still link to legally posted online content (from YouTube, Ted Talks, etc.). The MRU Library also has streaming video databases that you may link to. Standard commercial streaming options like Netflix, Crave or Disney Plus that students may also subscribe to can be an option – though some students may not have access to those services. Copyright exception s. 30.01, which extends the classroom for online deliver may also apply, so contact the Copyright Advisor if you need help to implement this copyright exception as there are rules that need to be followed to use it. 
  • Check out the Academic Development Centre's Preparing for Online Delivery website!

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 MRU the Fair Dealing Guidelines allow 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. The MRU Library can provide storage and streaming of videos that can be restricted to the students in your class only. You can also post videos within your course's D2L website. 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.

As always your subject librarian can help with getting things online - linking to the Libraries’ licensed resources, finding ebooks where available, and much more. 

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 - e.g. 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 MRU 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. Contact your subject librarian directly for assistance.

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 MRU, faculty and instructors are encouraged to read and apply the Fair Dealing Guidelines when they are making decisions about when they think they can make copies for students to post to D2L.

The Copyright Advisor is available to help faculty understand the relevant issues. Some app tools that you can use to easily digitize fair dealing amounts of material from your phone to post are Genius Scan and 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) tool that can be used to convert "non-selectable" text files into machine-readable or recognized text.

When an instructor needs to make more copyrighted material available to students than the Fair Dealing Guidelines allows, the Copyright Advisor can assist in making these determinations and can also help you seek formal copyright permissions to provide copies to students – but there may be some issues with getting permissions on short timelines. If you require digital copies of physical reserve materials, please fill out a digitization request.

Please note that even in this environment it will be difficult to obtain permission to scan and post entire books, particularly required textbooks. Therefore, it is important to only identify critical selections from these works that you would like to use. An alternative way to find course materials is to a look online for free to use teaching resources like Open Educational Resources. Just remember to attribute! You can also search the MRU Library, which has a large collection of journals and many ebooks that can support on-line learning. Your Librarians can also help!

Showing an entire movie or film or musical work online may be more of an issue than playing it in class - but there may be options for your students to access it independently online. MRU already has some licensed streaming content which you are welcome to use in your online course.

We may also be able to purchase streaming access for additional media, but as this takes time, standard commercial streaming options like commonly subscribed to services like Netflix, Crave, Disney Plus or Spotify and Apple Music that students may also personally subscribe to and can access using their own accounts may sometimes be the easiest option. (For exclusive content, the commercial services may be the only option.)

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:

  • 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. The University of Calgary has compiled more information about copying audiovisual works;
  • You must clearly post that the copy is being made using this exception such as “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, this exception requires that you delete the copy 30 days after you have received the final evaluation for the course.”
  • You must delete the copy in D2L or the password protected location you posted the audiovisual material within 30 days after course evaluations have been issued.

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 Copyright Advisor ( to ensure that you meet the requirements above.

The MRU Intellectual Property Policy affirms that faculty members own the copyright in their academic works, including instructional content. Some units and departments may have different practices and policies around ownership and use of course materials at the unit level, but you would likely already be aware of that if it is applicable.

Some units may also have some shared expectations of shared access to course video for continuity of educational experiences, without those expectations affecting the ownership of the materials. Instructors may want to include language in their D2L site or course syllabus that makes it clear that students cannot reuse or re-post their instructor’s course materials without permission.

University policies also affirm that students own the copyright in their own coursework. Instructors can require them to submit it in particular formats, but the students continue to own their works unless a separate agreement is signed by the student.


 This transitioning to online course delivery resource is adapted for Mount Royal University 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 on the Copyright Information section of this site 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.

Legal notice

The advice, information, and opinions on this LibGuide are not intended to constitute nor do they replace legal advice and they do not create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult with a lawyer for legal matters.