Copyright implications for teaching with audio-visual materials online

Monday, December 21, 2020

As teaching has shifted online, we’ve been paying close attention to how to provide copyright compliant access to course materials in remote teaching environments. At the end of the Winter 2020 term the Copyright for teaching online guide was created. At that time, we lacked clarity on how the Copyright Act could support instructors to make use of audio-visual (AV) materials in online classrooms.

What we learned 

Digitizing AV materials to support remote instruction introduces additional risk and complexity, and it would require technical resources that are not available at the campus level.  IST’s resources to support the use of media in remote instruction is currently limited to providing access to commercially available streaming video. 

The Provost’s memo of July 2020 encourages an increased focus on copyright compliance and education and so our efforts will be devoted to helping instructors make these materials available with minimal copyright risk. The best way to mitigate risk is to acquire streaming licenses for audiovisual material; it may not be possible in all cases to do so with the desired media titles. That said, IST has committed additional funding to streaming media licenses over the past few months, as noted in their August 19 message in the Daily Bulletin.  

Next steps 

If you are planning to teach with AV materials next term: 

  • Consider linking to content available online, such as:  
    • Content available on YouTube, Vimeo, or through news organizations (ex. CBC news player). Make sure you only link to legally available content.  
      Addendum as of December 23, 2020: Note that online video players such as YouTube are unavailable in certain countries, such as China. If there are students in your class studying in these countries, they will not be able to access this content. FAQs 0.7 and 0.9 provide more information about use of YouTube.
    • Streaming content from the IST Media Resources Library. There are 21,404 items available via streaming services.  
  • Requesting a new purchase from IST. Decisions on purchases are made based on several factors, including, but not limited to, academic relevance and funds available.  

In cases where a streaming version is not available to be purchased, the Copyright & Licensing Librarian will work with instructors for whom film is integral to course provision (for example, but not limited to courses in Visual Culture) to provide further guidance on how they or their support staff may digitize materials in a way that minimizes risk. 

If you have any questions about how you may use AV materials in remote courses please don’t hesitate to reach out to

Thank you, 

Beth Namachchivaya, University Librarian & Nickola Voegelin, General Counsel, Co-Chairs of the Copyright Advisory Committee

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