Copyright for teaching online

Jump to:

Key points to remember:

  1. Most of the legal issues are the same whether the teaching is done in person or online (via a Course Management System, like LEARN). 

  2. You can continue to apply the Fair Dealing Advisory and the rules that apply to Library licensed material.

  3. Linking to Library licensed resources (eBook and eJournal content) is always okay, with the exception of the Harvard Business Review.

  4. Linking to legal, freely available material online is always okay.

  5. When delivering lectures with copyright protected content, remember to limit access to that content to the students in your class. Using LEARN or another centrally supported teaching tool is the best way to do this.

Frequently asked questions and related resources

The following are questions that may arise as you transition your course online. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to


  1. Can I post a presentation on a learning management system (ex. LEARN) which includes images, figures, tables and/or diagrams from third party sources?

Course Materials

  1. May I scan a print journal article or a book chapter into a PDF and post it on a learning management system (ex. LEARN)?
    1. Additional tip: Some app tools that you can use to easily digitize fair dealing amounts of material from your phone to post to LEARN are Genius Scan, Adobe Scan. Please keep in mind that you can make any scanned PDF files more accessible for your students by using an online optical character recognition (OCR) online tool that can be used to convert "non-selectable" text files into machine-readable or recognized text.
  2. May I upload a PDF of a journal article I obtained through the library’s e-journals to Waterloo's learning management systems (LEARN) for my students to read?
  3. Can I post copies of copyright-protected works to Waterloo’s Learning management system (LEARN)? Can I email copies to students enrolled in my courses?

  4. Can Course Reserves staff make materials for my course available?

    For fall 2021 courses: Course reserves will continue to be electronic only to provide safe, consistent, and equitable access to all students. Requests for the fall term are now being accepted via our request page. We ensure that posted material is copyright compliant and accessible. Requests will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. For material that requires copyright clearance, several weeks may be needed to obtain permission or licensing. 

    Questions about course reserves can be directed to If you would like assistance finding electronic resources for your course, please contact your subject librarian to arrange a consultation.

Using materials you find online

  1. How can I tell if the materials I find online are legal copies?

Audio-visual materials

The memo, Copyright implications for teaching with audio-visual materials online, will provide you with the basic information you need to know when selecting audiovisual materials for online classes.

  1. Can I embed or link to free online video services (ex. YouTube, Vimeo) content in LEARN?
  2. Where can I find full length, legal copies of audiovisual content that my students can access at home?

Ownership of online course materials

  1. Who owns the copyright in the works I create at Waterloo?
  2. May I post examples of my students’ work on my Waterloo's learning management systems (LEARN) course or on my personal website?

  3. What text should I use in my syllabus to protect the copyright in the materials?

  4. Remote Teaching and Learning: Intellectual Property, from the Associate Vice-President, Academic, Secretariat, and Legal and Immigration Services. This page covers the basics about your intellectual property as covered in Policy 73 as directly related to teaching online.

Creative Commons License This resource has been adapted for Canadian universities by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries from material prepared by the Copyright Office, University of Minnesota document Copyright Services, Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online. Unless otherwise noted, all content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. We would like to acknowledge some contribution of adaptation language from University of Toronto Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office and Ryerson University Library.