Course Materials and Copyright

Considerations for making course materials available (including copyright considerations) are mostly the same whether teaching in-person or online via a Learning Management System such as VIULearn.

Please see the guide below for answers to common questions about making course materials available to your students.

Further information and support

For library materials, contact your Liaison Librarian or research.help@viu.ca
For copyright questions, contact copyright@viu.ca
For textbooks and coursepacks, please see Campus Store faculty resources

Course Materials and Copyright Guide

Order textbooks through the Campus Store’s VIU Textbook Adoption. If you have any questions regarding textbook adoptions, contact Debbie Richards at Debbie.Richards@viu.ca

If you have decided to adopt an Open Textbook for your course, please note that the Campus Store will offer printed copies of your BC Open Digital Textbook for purchase.

Please note that due to publisher restrictions, most digital textbooks cannot be made available through the Library. Also, due to necessary materials quarantining procedures for Fall 2020, the Library will not be able to place instructor copies of print textbooks on course reserve for short-term loan.

There may be some restrictions on using textbook supplementary materials in VIULearn. Consult the Terms of Use for the supplementary materials or contact the textbook publisher. You may be able to include material based on the Fair Dealing Exception in the Copyright Act. Contact copyright@viu.ca

Order custom courseware through the Campus Store’s VIU Custom Courseware Adoption. If you have any questions regarding custom courseware, contact Janice Speed at Janice.Speed@viu.ca

The Campus Store is diligently working to make as many materials available digitally as possible to accommodate the shift to online learning, including offering a digital option, along with the physical option, for all custom courseware.

Please note that many library-licensed materials may be used in coursepacks. Contact your Liaison Librarian or research.help@viu.ca to confirm if the material is licensed for coursepack use.

VIULearn is an excellent choice for student access to course materials that also helps with copyright matters because it is secure, password-protected, and only accessible by students enrolled in your course.

The easiest method to provide access to course materials is to create a link in VIULearn.

For library materials, use a stable link. Consult VIU Library’s Stable Links Guide and CIEL’s Creating a Link in Content. Most library-licensed materials allow stable links. (Note that Harvard Business Review does not permit linking to articles under its license.)

For material on the internet, first ensure you are linking to a legitimate and reputable site and not to copyright-infringing material that has been posted without the consent of the copyright owner, and that might consequently be subject to take-down at any time. Read any website Terms of Use to make sure linking is not explicitly prohibited. Do not “frame” the other webpage content, and by the link you should also include a citation with the author, copyright owner, and source of the materials, to ensure it is clear the website content is not your own material and you are not affiliated with it.

In cases where a link is not available, you may upload course materials if

If you want to digitize physical materials to upload to VIULearn, there are several options, including:

  • Using phone apps (e.g., Genius Scan, Adobe Scan) to digitize materials, and using an OCR tool to make the digitized materials more accessible
  • Using VIU Print Services

In each case, when digitizing materials it is your responsibility to ensure you are complying with copyright laws and copying within the limits allowed. See the Fair Dealing Exception or contact copyright@viu.ca

Library Digital Materials

Posting stable links to Library materials in VIULearn (rather than uploading a PDF) ensures students are accessing the most recent version of an article and is more likely to be copyright compliant. Consult VIU Library’s Stable Links Guide and CIEL’s Creating a Link in Content. Read the license’s Terms of Use for materials to see if linking to or distributing digital copies to students is allowed. Example of the Terms of Use for a licensed journal.

The Library collection includes thousands of open access (OA) journal titles, as well as open books and other open content, that are selected for relevance to learning and scholarship at VIU. Find OA versions of materials using Library OA search and/or Google Scholar (VIU access).

For more information on OA and Open Education Resources (OERs), consult the VIU Library OA Guide

Library Physical Materials

Library Physical Collection: Cowichan and Nanaimo campus libraries will re-open September 8th at which point you will be able to browse the stacks in person. To request materials for delivery by mail, place a hold through our catalogue and select "VIU Library - Mail Delivery" as your pickup method when placing your hold. To return your materials, use the external bookdrop outside Starbucks at the Nanaimo campus or use the pre-paid postage provided if you had your materials mailed to you.

Course Reserves:  Due to material quarantine procedures, the Library cannot offer course reserves for short-term loan during the Fall 2020 term. We will reassess options for Spring 2020 course reserves. If you need an article or book chapter from a print source in the Library collection to include as a digital course reading in your VIULearn course, please contact library.reserves@viu.ca. Library staff will scan the material and email it to you in PDF format. Please ensure your request is copyright compliant. See the Fair Dealing Exception or contact copyright@viu.ca.

The Library does not typically acquire course textbooks for the collection. Liaison librarians are happy to consult with faculty about alternatives to commercial textbooks, such as creating custom reading lists from resources already available through the Library, and finding Open Access (OA) materials, Open Education Resources (OERs), and Creative Commons licensed resources.

Always consult the Licenses/Terms of Use for Open Education Resources (OERs) or Open Access (OA) materials before use.

The Library collection includes thousands of OA journal titles, as well as open books and other open content, that are selected for relevance to learning and scholarship at VIU. Find OA versions of materials using Library OA search and/or Google Scholar (VIU access).

For more information on OA and OERs, consult the VIU Library OA Guide

You can browse BCCampus’s Open Textbooks 101 for guidance on available open textbooks and adoption processes. If you have decided to adopt a BC Open Digital Textbook for your course, the Campus Store will offer printed copies for purchase.

The easiest method is to provide a link to the material because this does not entail making a copy. First, ensure you are linking to a legitimate and reputable site and not to copyright-infringing material that has been posted without the consent of the copyright owner, and that might consequently be subject to take-down at any time. Read any website Terms of Use to make sure linking is not explicitly prohibited. Do not “frame” the other webpage content, and by the link you should also include a citation with the author, copyright owner, and source of the materials, to ensure it is clear the website content is not your own material and you are not affiliated with it.

Materials in the public domain are not copyright protected and you may copy and distribute them. However, finding and using public domain materials can be tricky. Consult this helpful Public Domain Guide and/or Public Domain Flowchart.

If the materials or images are short excerpts that qualify for the Fair Dealing Exception in the Copyright Act, then you may use them in your slide decks and distribute them to your students. See the Fair Dealing Exception or contact copyright@viu.ca

If the materials or images are in the public domain, then there is no copyright protection and you may use them. However, finding and using public domain materials can be tricky. Consult this helpful Public Domain Guide and/or Public Domain Flowchart.

If the materials or images are permissively licensed (e.g., Creative Commons License) or open access, then you may use them in your slide decks according to their Terms of Use, which usually includes attribution among other terms.

This Image Source Guide has links to sources for public domain images and images licensed for reuse. Always read the copyright and licensing information for the image you want to use and follow the Terms of Use.

The Library has films and videos that are licensed for use in courses, including online films and videos.

Commercial streaming services such as Netflix, Crave, etc. are for individual users, who must comply with their Terms of Use. For example, you wouldn’t be able to show a Netflix film to students in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, if students are individual subscribers of a streaming service, then they would be able to watch a film independently with their own accounts. However, some students may not have access to those services and streaming services may have different content available in various countries.

If you want to show your students a video from the internet for an educational or training purpose, then you may show the video as long as

  • the video is available through the internet;
  • you did not break or circumvent a technological protection measure (digital lock) that restricts access to the work or to the internet site;
  • there is no clearly visible notice (not merely the copyright symbol) on the website or on the video itself that prohibits the use or reproduction of the video;
  • you do not suspect that the video was posted without the consent of the owner of the video; and
  • you identify the source of the work and, if available and applicable, the author, performer, maker, or broadcaster of the work. 

What can you do if you have a scheduled screening for a film that is not available online and your course is online-only?

Please contact copyright@viu.ca to find out what may (or may not) be possible.

Note: Information for showing films and videos in the classroom will be updated when classes resume on campus.

The Library has both streaming and physical audio recordings that are licensed for use in courses.

Commercial streaming services such as Apple, Spotify, etc. are for individual users, who must comply with their Terms of Use. For example, you wouldn’t be able to play audio from these services to students in the classroom. Outside of the classroom, if students are individual subscribers of a streaming service, then they would be able to listen independently with their own accounts. However, some students may not have access to those services and streaming services may have different content available in various countries.

If you want to play audio recordings from the internet for an educational or training purpose, then you may as long as

  • the audio is available through the internet;

  • you did not break or circumvent a technological protection measure (digital lock) that restricts access to the work or to the internet site;

  • there is no clearly visible notice (not merely the copyright symbol) on the website or on the audio itself that prohibits the use or reproduction of the audio;

  • you do not suspect that the audio was posted without the consent of the owner(s); and

  • you identify the source of the work and, if available and applicable, the author, performer, maker, or broadcaster of the work.

Consider using public domain versions or open educational resources.

If you would like to play audio recordings beyond fair dealing amounts in your course, then please contact copyright@viu.ca to find out what may (or may not) be possible.

If you are looking for music to make videos or for other uses, these music communities provide music shared under various licenses (always read the license to see if it applies to your use).

Most of the copyright considerations are the same whether teaching in-person or online (except for audiovisual works and musical works/sound recordings), especially when access is limited to students enrolled in your course. When recording or live-casting lectures that include slides or other content, you will be copyright compliant when using third-party materials if

The difference between using audiovisual works and musical works/sound recordings online and in the physical classroom (such as showing a film or playing an audio recording) is more complex. If you wish to use more than fair dealing amounts, then contact copyright@viu.ca.


You may be able to use copyrighted works beyond fair dealing amounts if they qualify for the Copyright Act’s educational exception for reproducing works available through the Internet (s. 30.04) or for reproducing a lesson for e-learning (s. 30.01). Both uses have certain conditions that must be met to not violate the Copyright Act. Please read the applicable linked sections of the Copyright Act (s. 30.01 or 30.04) or contact copyright@viu.ca

Students own the copyright in the works they create in their courses (except for third-party content they are using but did not create). If you want to use examples of student work in current or future courses, then you have to obtain the student’s permission (unless the use is considered insubstantial or Fair Dealing, and both determinations require an analysis that can be complex).

For the third-party material used in a student work, you will need to confirm the student obtained the copyright owner’s permission or the materials are in the public domain, used under the Fair Dealing Exception, or licensed for such use (e.g., Creative Commons License).

The best practice is to ask for student consent in writing. You may want to specify the work you are using, your uses of the work, the distribution methods (e.g., posting in VIULearn), the time limits (e.g., for the current course or for future courses), and the citation for how the student wants to be credited or perhaps remain anonymous for privacy reasons. You may also want to consider whether you will provide students with a post-consent opportunity to ask for their work to be removed from your teaching materials.

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