Copyright Best Practices

Copyright is an important consideration for teaching and course design at RRU. By following copyright best practices before and during your course, you are helping protect the rights of creators, modelling best practices for your students, and helping protect the university from the potential implications of copyright violation.

This section addresses a few FAQs related to copyright best practice, but is not exhaustive. For more information and answers to your questions about copyright, contact the Copyright Team.

Copyright puzzle

“Copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces separated” by Horia Varlan is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).


What is copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive legal right to produce, reproduce, publish, or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic or musical work. The creator is usually the copyright owner. You can read more about Canadian copyright in the RRU Library Copyright Guide, or in the Canadian Copyright Act itself.

Why is copyright important?

Copyright is important because it legally protects a creator’s works. Moreover, institutions such as Royal Roads University are liable to a high level of scrutiny with regard to the use of ‘third-party’ works and to legal action. The lawsuit brought against York University by Access Copyright was sparked by illegal copying done off-campus by a few instructors, who copied works for their classes. The instructors had a vague notion that the copying fell under an ‘educational use’ exception, but without any guidance, they unwittingly broke the law, and subjected York to a suit that resulted in a loss in the federal court.

What does copyright have to do with teaching and course design?

When an instructor reproduces part or all of another person’s work in Moodle, the rights of the copyright owner come into play. Only if there is a clear exception that may be applied to the reproduction of that work, or if RRU obtains permission from the copyright owner, can the work be used legally.

How does the Copyright Office support instructors?

CTET and the Copyright Office work together with instructors to ensure that students have access to the readings and resources that they need, as well as ensure that all shared materials are legitimate and legal. The Copyright Office completes a comprehensive copyright check of all required readings for all Moodle courses. This copyright check includes:

  • Obtaining permission where it is required
  • Determining where fair dealing can be used
  • Confirming, correcting, and/or inserting links for readings from the subscription databases or the internet  
  • Seeking cost approval from your program prior to ordering the permissions and access (if the use of your readings and resources will incur costs)
  • Obtaining and scanning source documents (if print readings that have to be digitized)

What are copyright best practices for instructors BEFORE the course goes live?

Instructors can support the university’s commitment to copyright best practice by following these steps in the course design/development stage:

  • Make sure that all required readings are listed in a single place. Usually, this is in a chapter in your “Course outline” book called “Readings and Resources”. It is this list that the Copyright Office uses to complete copyright checks. This means that if your course has readings listed elsewhere (i.e. in unit overviews, assignment descriptions, etc.), they will not be included in the copyright check, which may have implications for your students or the university. For example, without going through copyright check, resources may be unavailable when students need them or could put the university at risk of copyright violation.
  • Ensure that your readings are listed complete, correct, and in proper academic citation style for your discipline. 
  • For electronic resources, share a link to the location of the resource on the internet. DO NOT share PDFs or Word documents, unless you have prior approval from the Copyright Office.
  • According to service level timelines and instructor contracts, you can edit your readings and resources list up to six weeks before the end of the course. However, it's a good idea to try and finalize your list of required readings and resources by about 8 weeks before the start of your course to allow time for the Copyright Team to complete their copyright check, which is due 6 weeks before the start of the course.

What are copyright best practices for instructors AFTER the course goes live?

After the course start date there should be no significant changes. This means that you should NOT add any new required readings to the “Readings and Resources” list (as this changes the expectations of the course). That said, we understand that there are times when a certain article or resource might become relevant as discussions develop and the course progresses. In this situation, follow these steps:

  • Share the share the reading or resource with your students as part of an announcement or in a forum discussion and frame it as a suggested reading, rather than a new requirement.
  • Do NOT add the new reading or resource to the “Readings and Resources” page/chapter (this is reserved for required readings, which have already been through copyright check).
  • Do NOT share a saved file (e.g. a PDF of a journal article) as this can have copyright implications.

  • If you can’t find the reading or resource in the library’s electronic collection, you can share a link to the location of the new reading or resource on the internet. Be sure to model correct copyright behavior when linking to a web page or web document: if the website or document to which you are linking appears itself to be an infringement of copyright, do not link to it.
  • If you cannot find the document in the library’s electronic collection or on a legitimate website  - and therefore can’t link to it - and if you only have a saved file version, contact the Copyright Office for help. 

Sometimes, instructors are inspired halfway through a course with a new reading to add to the next iteration of the course. In this situation, add a note to the Development notes page (usually a hidden page at the top of your course). If you aren't sure where this is, contact CTET Studio for help. 

Don't forget, the library is here to help...

It may also happen that you don’t have a specific reading or resource in mind, but would like to share something with your students to highlight a point or provide optional further reading about a topic. The library can help with this; you can either search the RRU library’s electronic collection for a reading or resource that meets your needs, or contact a librarian, who would be happy to help you find what you’re looking for.

The Copyright Office is part of the network of support, put in place to help you deliver excellent learning experiences to RRU students. If you have any doubts about whether you are following copyright best practice, please don’t hesitate to contact the Copyright Team. They would love to hear from you!


Last modified: Tuesday, 19 June 2018, 1:17 PM