Copyright tips for moving teaching online

The SFU Copyright Office has adapted the following copyright guidelines for the SFU teaching community, to assist instructors with moving their teaching online.

As always, please contact the Copyright Office ( with any questions.

Key points to remember

Most of the legal issues are the same whether the teaching is done in person or online (via Canvas or another LMS).

If it was okay to do in class, it is likely okay to do online -- especially when access is limited to the same enrolled students (e.g. via Canvas). See our workshop slides for Copyright in the Virtual Classroom (available here) for additional information.

You can continue to apply the fair dealing and related guidelines in our infographic.

Our Resources for Instructors, which includes links and informational materials, may be useful.

Tips for posting and sharing to your online course

Using Canvas, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, and Zoom

Use Canvas to make material available to your students, and Blackboard Collaborate Ultra or Zoom to deliver lectures. (See the CEE's Remote teaching support page for guidelines on delivering content remotely using Canvas, Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, and Zoom.)

You can most likely post your in-class slides to Canvas. Slides provided by textbook publishers can almost always be posted, according to their Terms of Use. Content that you have created and for which you are the copyright owner can always be shared.

Course readings rules are similar for print and posting in Canvas. Use the fair dealing and related guidelines in our infographic, link to a resource from the Library's collections, or link out to Internet content.

Finding, scanning, and sharing print and audiovisual content

Your liaison librarian may be able to help you find alternative content, and the Library has a large collection of online journals and ebooks. In fact, many content providers have recently increased access to a variety of materials to ensure broader access by campuses. Your liaison librarian can also help you find Open Educational Resources (OER) and other openly-licensed content.

Use phone apps like Genius Scan or Adobe Scan to easily scan and post print materials within the limits allowed by the Copyright Act (see our infographic for 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 you can still link to legally posted content on YouTube and other online sources. The Library also has streaming audiovisual collections that you can link to, plus an option for digitizing DVDs and making them available in streaming format.

Using copyright protected material in exams can be easy, as you can use the fair dealing and related guidelines. If you need to use material beyond those guidelines, contact for advice.

Recording or live-casting lectures

Slides containing images and other third-party material

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 the video is being shared through a password-protected course website (e.g. in Canvas).

You own copyright in slide content that you create. However, if you are incorporating third-party materials, they should be used in keeping with the fair dealing and related guidelines or other license agreements for the content. Using openly-licensed images, such as content with a Creative Commons license, makes this easy by providing you with broad permission to share that content.

In-lecture use of audiovisual materials

Here, the differences between online and in-person teaching can be a bit more complex. Showing a film or playing an audio recording in class is permitted by Section 29.5 of the Copyright Act; however, that exemption generally doesn't cover playing the same media online.

In a recorded lecture, if you can limit audio and video use to relatively brief clips, this use may fall under fair dealing - SFU's Fair Dealing Policy permits the use of up to 10% of a copyright protected work, to be distributed to students in your class only.

The Library has streaming audiovisual collections that you can link to for students to access. 

If the Library does not have a streaming version of the video, and cannot acquire one for you, it can convert a DVD to a streaming file and make it available to the students in your class. This is done using the distance and online education exception (s. 30.01) in the Copyright Act and in accordance with the technological protection measures section (s. 41.1) of the Copyright Act. Please see Streaming video for required course videos for full information about the service and how to use the service. 


Is everything on the Internet in the public domain, and therefore fair game?

A work enters the public domain only after copyright expires, or if the creator has designated the work as such. 

Most material found on the Internet is protected just like any other material (unless otherwise indicated). Text, charts, graphs, tables, photographs, music, movies, graphics, postings to news groups, blogs, e-mail messages, images, video clips, and computer software do not lose copyright protection simply because they are posted on the Internet.  

However, educators are allowed to copy, distribute, communicate, or perform, works found on the Internet to their students, provided that:

  1. The work is properly cited (e.g., source, author, performer, maker, and/or broadcaster),
  2. The work is publicly available (e.g., access is not restricted by a Technological Protection Measure),
  3. There is no clearly visible notice (not just the © copyright symbol alone) prohibiting the intended use, and
  4. It is apparent that the work was not made available in violation of the copyright owner’s rights.
Is it okay to use images or other material from the Internet for educational purposes?

It depends on what you want to do. Materials on the Internet are treated the same under copyright law as any other copyright protected materials, so if you want to use them, they have to either fall within one of the Act’s exceptions (such as fair dealing or the educational exception relating to materials from the Internet), or be open access or in the public domain.

Under the educational exception, you are permitted to copy, distribute, communicate or perform works found on the Internet to your students, provided that:

  1. The work is properly cited (e.g., source, author, performer, maker and/or broadcaster),
  2. The work is publicly available (i.e. access is not restricted by a technological protection measure),
  3. There is no clearly visible notice prohibiting the intended use (note that the © copyright symbol alone does not prohibit use), and
  4. It is apparent that the work was not copied or made available online in violation of the copyright owner's rights.

If what you want to use isn’t from an open access or public domain source and does not fall into one of the Act’s exceptions you will have to obtain permission from the copyright owner. You should check the website’s ‘Terms of Use’ or ‘Legal Notices’ section to confirm what conditions apply to use of the website’s material, including whether educational use is explicitly prohibited. Some websites will allow non-commercial educational use of their materials.

Do I need to ask permission to link to a website?

Content on the web is protected by copyright in the same way as print and other formats, even if there is no copyright symbol or notice. Linking directly to the web page containing the content you wish to use is almost always permitted, although you need to make sure the content you are linking to is not in itself infringing copyright. In addition, if the web page does not clearly identify the website and content owner, you should also include the full details of the author, copyright owner and source of the materials by the link. This will avoid any suggestion that the website is your own material or that your website is somehow affiliated with the other site. 

If you have reason to believe that the web site may contain content posted without the permission of the copyright owner, you should avoid linking to it. In addition, you must comply with web site statements indicating that permission is required before material is reproduced or that it may not be reproduced at all. Such statements are typically found in sections titled ‘Terms of Use’ or ‘Legal Notices.’

Can I embed YouTube videos in my course website?

Yes, as long as the content has not been posted in an infringing manner and there is no stated restriction on using the material. Do not embed, or link to, any material that you know, or suspect, has been illegally posted.

Can I post copies of copyright protected works to SFU’s learning management system? Can I email copies to students enrolled in my courses?

Yes, you can do both if you adhere to the amount that may be copied under fair dealing. Please see the Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04 for the copying limits.

Include a clearly visible notice on all materials you post or email, that states:
This item has been copied under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act as enumerated in SFU Appendix R30.04A - Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04. You may not distribute, e-mail or otherwise communicate these materials to any other person.

May I upload a PDF of a journal article I obtained through the library’s e-journals to Canvas for my students to read?

The licenses for some e-journals provided by the Library allow instructors to upload articles into secure learning management systems (LMS) such as Canvas. While there may be good reason to upload articles to the LMS, it is important to consider that doing so may mean that your students do not have the most recent version of the article. It is not unusual for publishers to make corrections or changes, such as adding supplementary material, to articles after initial publication. If such changes are made after a copy has been uploaded they will not be reflected in that copy. A direct link is the best way to ensure access to the most recent version of an article. Linking to the article also allows the Library to track use and obtain data about the importance of a particular journal to the campus.  

Making Readings Available to Students describes several different ways to make required and supplementary readings available to students online and suggests the pros and cons of each option. Each option has specific benefits along with specific cautions, including copyright compliance. 

While uploading and linking to articles in the LMS may be permitted by the licenses, it is important to remember that licenses generally do not permit you to upload to a website, or create links on a website, that is not part of the University’s secure network, and that is open to the world at large. None of the licenses that the Library has with publishers allows for uploading to, or linking from, websites that allow access without authentication. 

May I scan a print journal article or a book chapter into a PDF and post it to Canvas?

As long as you adhere to the amounts that may be copied under fair dealing you may scan and post it on SFU’s learning management system (LMS), Canvas. See the Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04 for the copying limits. It is important to note that SFU's fair dealing policy does not allow you to post material to a website unless that website is password protected and restricted to students enrolled in your course. If you want to scan a copyright protected work for inclusion on an open (public) website, you will need to obtain permission from the copyright owner.

If you do post copyright protected material, copied under fair dealing limits, include a clearly visible notice on all materials you post that states:
This item has been copied under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act as enumerated in SFU Appendix R30.04A - Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04. You may not distribute, e-mail or otherwise communicate these materials to any other person.

I gave a PowerPoint presentation in class, which includes figures, diagrams and other images from a book. Can I post it to Canvas?

There are two exceptions in the Copyright Act that can apply to this situation - fair dealing and educational exceptions. The Copyright Infographic spells out the possibilities and limitations of both of these exceptions.

Under fair dealing you may post charts, diagrams or other images from textbooks, or other works, to SFU’s learning management system (Canvas), as long as you adhere to permitted amounts of material. If for example, you wish to post multiple images from a book, you may do so as long as those images amount to no more than 10% of the book (see the Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04). It is important to note that if you wish to post such material to a website, that website must be password protected or otherwise restricted to students enrolled in your course.  

Include a clearly visible notice on all materials you post using the fair dealing limits that states:

This item has been copied under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act as enumerated in SFU Appendix R30.04A - Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04. You may not distribute, e-mail or otherwise communicate these materials to any other person.

Under an educational exception in the Copyright Act you may display entire works in the classroom if necessary, if you are unable to find a commercially available version in the format you require. As well, under section 30.01 of the Copyright Act, you may post this same presentation in Canvas, but it must also be restricted to students enrolled in your course, and must be destroyed within 30 days from the end of the course.

Include a clearly visible notice on all materials you post using the educational exception that states:

This item has been copied under section 30.01 of the Copyright Act. You may not distribute, e-mail or otherwise communicate these materials to any other person. You must delete all copies of these materials within 30 days of the end of the course they pertain to.

Is there any difference between posting something on my own website and posting it in Canvas?

Yes. Canvas, SFU's learning management system (LMS) is password protected and accessible only by students enrolled in a particular course. A publicly accessible website is accessible by the whole world. SFU's Fair Dealing Policy (Application of Fair Dealing Under Policy R30.04) provides parameters for making copyright protected materials available to your students, but specifically limits you to handing materials out in class, emailing them directly to your students, posting them in Canvas or including them in a course pack produced by the Bookstore. This policy is based on the fair dealing right in Canada's Copyright Act; wider distribution, such as on an open website, is generally considered less "fair." Additionally, some of the University's electronic subscriptions specifically permit articles and other materials to be posted only in restricted course management systems.

May I post examples of my students’ work to my SFU learning management system course or on my personal website?

Under SFU Policy R30.03 Intellectual Property Policy, students own the copyright in the works they create, so you may only copy and distribute such works with their permission. The University does have the right to make copies of student works for academic purposes, but this right does not extend to making them available online. Accordingly, you should ask students in advance whether they give permission for their work to be posted online and keep written records of the permissions given. However, if the use you want to make of the work complies with the terms of SFU's Fair Dealing Policy or the educational exceptions in the Copyright Act, you may use the work without permission.

Why am I not able to download or print this entire ebook?

The SFU Library provides access to ebooks from many different publishers on a variety of platforms.  Some of the ebook platforms include DRM (Digital Rights Management) to protect the content of their ebooks from copyright abuse. This means that you will encounter a variety of limitations in how much you can print, download and save from an ebook.

Access to ebooks on third party platforms is an agreement between the platform and the publisher; the library has no involvement, except for the right to purchase (or lease) the ebook on an ebook platform. 

It is common for a publisher, or an author, to request additional DRM limits (on top of the platform's standard DRM restrictions). Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure which ebooks these additional limits apply to -- except when you attempt to do something that is beyond the limits, such as print 20 pages in one session if the publisher has set the limit to 15 pages on that platform.

Ebook Central

  • The copy and print limits on most Proquest Ebook Central books are based on a percentage of the number of pages in the book.  (per book, per user session) Pages you can print = 30% and pages from which you can copy = 15%.
  • Allows full book download for two weeks (14 days) using Adobe Digital Editions
  • You must register for an account.

Ebook Collection (EBSCOhost)

Gale Virtual Reference Library

  • Allows PDF downloads of a single article or portions of a single article at a time

Safari Books Online

  • Allows one chapter section to be printed at once (usually 2-4 pages) and does not permit PDF downloads.
  • Limited to eight (8) simultaneous users


What non-journal online resources does the university have and how do I access them?

The Library subscribes to or owns outright numerous non-journal electronic resources. Search for them by format using the "Find Databases by database title and description" search box at Article Databases. These resources can be linked to in course listings, electronic reserves, course websites and the learning management system. See the Electronic Collection Information for Librarians and Faculty (SFU Library) for the suitability of certain resources for use on Library Reserves. 

Additionally, terms of use information for journals and article indexes and databases licensed by the SFU Library can be viewed via the A-Z Journals Listing in the Library Catalogue. Journal descriptions specify the publishers' terms of use with regard to copying material for use in electronic reserves, course packs and interlibrary loan.

What will happen if I don’t comply with the university’s copyright policies and licensing agreements?

Simon Fraser University copyright policies align with the Government of Canada’s copyright legislation (Copyright Act) and outline the institution’s requirements of faculty, staff and students to comply with all legal requirements. 

Simon Fraser University is committed to compliance in all copyright matters. It is the responsibility of each individual to comply with copyright laws and respect copyright ownership and licensing. The use of copyright protected materials without proper consent may be actionable under both the Copyright Act and the Criminal Code. In addition to any actions that might be taken by any copyright owner or its licensing agent, the University will take any breaches of its copyright policy very seriously. In the case of employees, disciplinary procedures may be applied. In the case of students, disciplinary action for academic and/or non-academic misconduct may be applied.

Our complete FAQs for instructors are available here.

Where to get help

The Copyright Office is available remotely, and happy to answer any questions you have. Email us at

See Library service updates during COVID-19 for more FAQs about Library services during COVID-19.

The Centre for Educational Excellence has provided a page on Remote teaching support.



This page was adapted for SFU from templates created by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC license, and based in part on a University of Minnesota Copyright Office document, with input from the University of Toronto Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office and Ryerson University Library.