There are a lot of pedagogical and technical issues that make remote teaching challenging, but for once, copyright is not a big area of worry!
Overall points to keep in mind
- Most of the legal issues are the same in both contexts.
- 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.
- You can continue to apply the University of Toronto Fair Dealing Guidelines in the online context.
- Slide images
- In-lecture use of audio or video
- Where to post your videos
- Sharing or linking to course readings
- Multimedia viewing/listening
- Ownership of online course resources
This document is evolving and subject to change. Last updated April 13, 2023.
Recording video of yourself, live-casting lectures, etc.
If it was legal to show slide images in class, it is likely legal to show them to students via live video conferencing or in recorded videos. This may be a surprise if you have heard that there is a big difference between class lecture slides and online conference slides - but the issue is usually less offline versus online, than a restricted versus an unrestricted audience. As long as your new course video is being shared through course websites (like Quercus) limited to the same 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. In most cases, faculty will own the copyright in or have license to use their slides. However, if you are incorporating third-party materials into your lessons, they should be in keeping with the University of Toronto Fair Dealing Guidelines, other exceptions to copyright, 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 off of legally-obtained physical media during an in-person class session is 100% legal at the University of Toronto under Section 29.5 of the Copyright Act. However, that exemption doesn't necessarily 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. 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. The University's MyMedia service provides storage and streaming of videos and can be restricted to the University of Toronto community. You can also post your lecture videos to Quercus. You also can post video to other streaming services (such as Youtube), and the same basic legal provisions discussed above would apply. Making your video openly available to an unrestricted audience might change what materials you might consider including in your lesson. Additionally, it is more likely that videos posted on YouTube may encounter some automated copyright enforcement, such as a takedown notice, or the 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 email@example.com for assistance.
Sharing or linking to course readings
As always, the course reserves and Syllabus Services across UofT’s three campuses can help with getting things online – by linking to library resources, finding ebooks where available, and the scanning and provision of excerpts from books. In light of the likely closure of some libraries, scanning support may be running at reduced capacity. We will continue to update this document to reflect the current availability of services. If you want to share additional materials with students yourself, or if you want students to share more resources with each other in an online discussion board, keep in mind some simple guidelines:
It's always easiest to link!
Linking to publicly available online content like news websites, existing online videos, etc., is rarely a copyright issue (it is better not to link to existing content that looks obviously infringing itself - Joe Schmoe's YouTube video of the entire "Black Panther" movie is probably not a good thing to link to. But Sara Someone's 2-minute video of herself and her best friend talking over a few of the pivotal scenes may be fair dealing, and is not something you should worry about linking to).
Linking to subscription content through the Libraries is also a great option - a lot of our subscription content will have DOIs, PURLs, or other "permalink" options, all of which should work even for off-campus users. Consult the “How can I create a permanent link to an article?” guide, or contact the library directly for assistance via the Ask Chat service, the Get Library Help form, or by contacting your Liaison Librarians.
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. It's better not to make copies of entire works - but most instructors don't do that! Copying portions of works to share with students may be fair dealing, depending on the six fair dealing factors.
At the University of Toronto, faculty and instructors are encouraged to read and apply the University of Toronto’s Fair Dealing Guidelines when they are making their own decisions about when they think they can make copies for students. Faculty can also consult the Copyright Basics & FAQ and the Copyright Roadmap for further guidance. New for 2023, the Library has published a Copyright Roadmap Learning Module. Library staff members are available to help faculty understand the relevant issues (contact firstname.lastname@example.org).
Library staff can assist faculty in making copyright 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.
Use phone apps like Genius Scan or Adobe Scan to easily scan to post print materials to Quercus in keeping with the University of Toronto Fair Dealing Guidelines. Make scanned PDF files more accessible for your students by using an optical character recognition (OCR) online tool to convert "non-selectable" text files into more accessible versions.
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 Libraries already have quite a bit of licensed online video resources, which you are welcome to use in your online course.
We may be able to purchase streaming access for additional media, but standard commercial streaming options like Netflix, Amazon, Crave, and Disney+ may sometimes be the easiest option. (For exclusive content, the commercial services may be the only option.)
Ownership of online course resources
The University of Toronto’s Copyright Policy affirms that faculty members and faculty-like employees own the copyright in their academic works, including instructional content. Some units and departments have different policies around ownership of course video 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.
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.
This resource is adapted for the University of Toronto from material prepared by the Copyright Office, University of Minnesota document Copyright Services, Rapidly shifting your course from in-person to online. All content on this page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. We would also like to acknowledge some contribution of adaptation language from Ryerson University Library.