Copyright at USU

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Using Digital Resources in CMS


Course materials posted online are subject to copyright law, even if they are posted in a password-restricted system such as Canvas. The following guidelines are not all-inclusive, but are intended to help you make informed copyright decisions.

Digital Environments vs. Physical Environments

When considering whether you should obtain permission to distribute a copyrighted work online, it can help to consider what would be required to distribute the same content physically in a classroom. For example, if you would need copyright clearance to distribute photocopies of a written work to students in your class, you would need permission to distribute the same file online. The same concept applies to images and audio/visual media, although as a rule, further restrictions apply to displaying content, especially audio/visual content, in online settings. For more information on these restrictions, please see the section describing the TEACH Act.


Before you use content of any kind in your course, be sure you know enough about the nature of the work and its copyright owner to make informed copyright decisions.

There are certain circumstances, described below, in which you may not need to permission to use someone else's work. If these circumstances do not apply to your use case, seek permission from the copyright owner before using the content.


Link to Licensed or Publicly Available Copies

A subscription to an article or another type of work may have already been paid for by the library, or it may be freely accessible to the public on a legitimate website. If so, you can link to the content from your course without having to worry about copyright liability. Note that linking is not the same as copying the content to your course. Creating a copy may have copyright implications. Whenever possible, you should link to a work rather than reproduce it.

Find Creative Commons Works

A growing number of works are produced with a Creative Commons license. This type of license allows the content producer to specify how his or her content can be used, reused, and repurposed. For example, a Creative Commons license on a video may allow for non-commercial use on the condition that attribution is made to the content creator. A good starting place for finding creative commons works is http://search.creativecommons.org/. Be sure to review the license on a given work to see what the unique restrictions are.

Tap Into the Public Domain

A work that is in the public domain can be used without copyright permission. By U.S. law, a work enters the public domain 70 years after the content author has died. Also, anything produced before 1923 is in the public domain. Other public domain works include those produced by the U.S. Government or its employees as part of their jobs. This does not include works produced under a federal grant or those produced by state and local governments.

Finally, would your use be covered under Fair Use?

Use the Checklist.


Other References

For more information, you are encouraged to follow the links below.