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Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online Copyright Considerations Guide

(This document is evolving and subject to change. Last updated March 14, 2020.) 

There may be pedagogical and technical issues that make the shift from in-person to online teaching a new challenge but for once, copyright is not a significant additional area of worry! 

Overall points to keep in mind:

  1. Most of the intellectual property issues are the same in both contexts. 
  2. If it was okay to do in class, it is often okay to do online –, especially when your online access is limited to the same enrolled students. 
  3. You can continue to use the TMU Fair Dealing Guideline

Recording video of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc.

Slide Images

Just as it is legal to show slide images in class, it is generally legal to show them to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos. 

As long as your new course video is being shared through password protected course websites like D2L Brightspace or TMU’s Zoom to your enrolled students, the legal issues are fairly similar. 

Many instructors routinely post a copy of their slides as a file for students to access after in-person course meetings. This is fine if your slides comply with the TMU Fair Dealing Guideline.

Many instructors routinely post a copy of their slides as a file for students to access after in-person course meetings. In most cases, faculty will own the copyright in or have license or a Terms of Use from textbook publishers that allows you to use their slides when you adopt a textbook. However,  if you are incorporating other third-party materials into your lessons they should be in keeping with TMU Fair Dealing Guideline or other license agreements.

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 100% legal under Section 29.5 of the Copyright Act.  However, that exemption often 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 under the copyright provision called fair dealing. At Toronto Metropolitan University we have the TMU Fair Dealing Guideline that allows 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. Toronto Metropolitan University’s RyeCast provides storage and streaming of videos and can be restricted to the students in your class only. You can also post videos within your D2L Brightspace course. 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. 

Course readings and other resources

Hopefully, by mid-semester, your students have already gotten access to most assigned reading materials. As always, TMU Library E-Reserve can help with getting things online – linking to Libraries subscription resources, finding ebooks where available, and much more.  

If you want to share additional materials with students yourself as you revise instructional plans, or if you want students to share more resources with each other in an online discussion board, keep in mind some simple guidelines below. You can also consult the TMU Do-it-Yourself Copyright Checking Guide or email if you have other questions about copyright.   

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 itself – 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 are not something you should worry about linking to.

Linking to subscription content through the TMU Library is also a great option – a lot of our subscription content will have DOIs, PURLs, or other “permalink” or “persistent link” options, all of which should work even for off-campus users. Consult the “How to make persistent links” guide, or contact the library directly for assistance via or through the Ask or research help form

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 Toronto Metropolitan University, faculty and instructors are encouraged to read and apply the TMU Fair Dealing Guideline when they are making decisions about when they think they can make copies for students to post to D2L Brightspace.  Library staff members are available to help faculty understand the relevant issues (contact for more help.) 

Some app tools that you can use to easily digitize fair dealing amounts of material from your phone to post to D2L Brightspace are Genius Scan, Adobe Scan. Please keep in mind that you can make any scanned PDF files more accessible for your students by using the TMU Library provided optical character recognition (OCR) online 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 TMU Fair Dealing Guideline allows library staff in Library E-Reserve can assist faculty 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. 

An alternative way to find course materials is to look online for free to use teaching resources like Open Educational Resources (OER). Just remember to attribute! You can also search TMU Library which has a large collection of journals and many e-books that can support on-line learning. Your Subject Librarian can also help!

Multimedia viewing/listening

Showing an entire movie or film or musical work online may be a bit more of an issue than playing it in class – but there may be options for your students to access it independently online. The TMU Library already has quite a bit of licensed streaming video content which you are welcome to use in your online course. Remember you can still link to content!

We may 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 or Disney Plus that students may also subscribe to and can access using their own accounts may sometimes be the easiest option, but only if your students already have accounts and have data plans that can support streaming. (For some exclusive content, the commercial services may be the only option.)  Copyright exception s. 30.01 can also apply, contact if you need help to implement this copyright exception as there are rules that need to be followed to use it: such as copying without breaking TPMs; a clear notice to students;  and you need to delete the copy in the course management system, or password protected location you posted the audiovisual material within 30 days after course evaluations have been issued.

Ownership of online course materials 

The Toronto Metropolitan Faculty Association (TFA) Collective Agreement affirms that faculty members own the copyright in their academic works, including instructional content. Some units and departments have different policies around ownership 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 specific language in their course management 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. Please note that students should be aware that posting instructors content from your TMU course to an on-line course sharing site can be perceived as an Academic Integrity issue according to Policy 60.


Consult the TMU Do-it-Yourself Copyright Checking Guide or email if you have other questions about copyright.

This resource is adapted to be Toronto Metropolitan University specific from material prepared by the Copyright Office, University of Minnesota document Copyright Services, Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to onlineUnless 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 Communication and Copyright Office and the CARL Copyright Group.