My course materials have been posted on a course sharing site like Course Hero or OneClass – what are my rights?
You as an instructor own the teaching-related intellectual property that you create as an instructor at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU), unless you have assigned rights to the material to another entity by contract. Some examples of the types of materials that are are protected by copyright include lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, lab manuals, syllabi and streamed lectures. Instructors are encouraged to remind students, through notices in their syllabi, that those course materials are protected by copyright laws. You may also choose to include the copyright symbol (©) on your materials along with your name and the date they were created. As well make sure that you fully cite any third party materials in your course material that you use, to make it clear that some material is not your own work and can’t be redistributed. Course sharing sites are meant to share notes only, but increasingly instructor materials are being shared. For more information about what course sharing sites themselves see as acceptable to post copyright-wise, please read the Copyright guidelines on the Course Hero site.
Are students allowed to post their own lecture notes?
Student created, non-verbatim (in their own words) notes of class lectures are acceptable for students to share, as these are created by students in their own words so are copyrighted to them. As well, if students post short excerpts of your work to non-commercial site, for a fair dealing purpose (such as criticism, review, education, news reporting) then their use may qualify as fair dealing.
How do I get my materials removed from these websites?
If you find your teaching materials on a course sharing site, for example Course Hero or OneClass, you can send a request to have the materials taken down, if the work was created by you. Please note that many course sharing websites like Course Hero are in the United States, and so can be subject to a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) request, which if you follow carefully will mean that the company is required by law to remove your materials. A DMCA request only applies to material you created and are the copyright owner of, not to third party materials that are part of your course. You can send a takedown request to a course sharing site like OneClass, but because they are located in Canada and use Canadian servers, they are not required to take the materials down without a court order, although they may choose to do so.
Course Hero also gives advice on how you can send a request to have the materials taken down. Course Hero includes information on how to submit a request.
If you would like more information about how to search for your teaching materials posted without your consent Cornell University has compiled a Copyright Information Centre web page that includes tips for finding your copyrighted materials online. Cornell also includes a sample copyright notice that can be used as a template.
How do I make a DMCA Takedown request?
To make a DMCA request for your own content to be taken down you need to put it in the following format and provide this information. It is a good idea to date your request. You must provide the following information for your request to be enforceable in the United States:
1. The Name of the copyright claimant (your full name)
2. Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed (the name of the item)
3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material (a link to the content)
4. Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted (your email address or full mailing address)
5. A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner (A statement that claims that you are the copyright holder)
6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright that is allegedly infringed (a statement that you assert you are telling the truth, and that you are in fact the authorized copyright holder)
What do I do if the material is not removed, even after I have sent a takedown request?
You can also send a Cease and Desist letter to follow up, following the APPENDIX A template. If the cease and desist does not work, you may wish to contact email@example.com for advice on other avenues of relief.
Does TMU Policy 60 Academic Integrity Apply?
Policy 60, Academic Integrity https://www.torontomu.ca/senate/policies/pol60.pdf includes the following specific examples of academic misconduct:
“2.8 Unauthorized Use of Intellectual Property
Use of the intellectual property of others for distribution, sale or profit without the authorization of the owner of that material. This includes slides and presentation materials used in a class wherever the owner of those materials has not authorized further use.
“2.10 Violations of Specific Departmental or Course Requirements
Instructors may, in order to encourage Academic Integrity, include additional specific requirements as long as these are consistent with this policy. Any additional requirements must be published in the course outline”
This means that Policy 60 Academic Integrity may apply. If your students share your materials, without your authorization, you may wish to register a suspicion of academic misconduct with the Academic Integrity Office here:
Below is some text that you can use on your course outline that is specific to Policy 60 Academic Integrity:
The unauthorized use of intellectual property of others, including your Professor’s, for distribution, sale, or profit, including, but not limited to:
- Lecture notes
- Presentation materials used in and outside of class
- Lab manuals
- Course packs/E-Reserves
is expressly prohibited in accordance with Policy 60 Academic Integrity (Sections 2.8, 2.10)
For additional information, or for urgent requests, please call the Academic Integrity Office at 416 979 5000, ext. 557800.
What if I am OK with students posting my material online?
You may not have an issue with students posting your course material online. If that is the case you can consider including in your course outline that you are making the course materials available with a Creative Commons Licence. A Creative Commons licence will let you indicate how your content can be copied and distributed. For guidance in choosing a Creative Commons licence, see the About CC Licences page.