Copyright for Instructors

There are several ways to use copyrighted texts, images, sound recordings, films, and other resources in instruction.

You can use copyrighted materials in class and post materials in Canvas if your usage qualifies as a fair use. Using something educationally does not automatically make it fair use. Our Fair Use Checklist can help you determine and document whether your use is fair.

In-Person Use 

You can use copyrighted materials in person in the classroom within the normal course of instruction. For example, you can show a film, hand out a poem or book chapter, play a recording, or show an image. A whole book or journal is considered too much to share in class. It’s best to limit the amount to what can be covered in a class session. 

Screening Films

You can screen an entire film within the classroom for the purpose of instruction. Film screenings for entertainment purposes outside the classroom require public performance rights.

We can purchase streaming films and other library materials for courses. We are unable to purchase Netflix or Amazon Prime films for classroom use. Netflix Original allows for educational screenings of documentaries. For other films available on these platforms, students need to access them through their own personal subscriptions.

Digital Use

Materials posted in Canvas must be comparable to what would be shared in a live, in-person classroom (like an article, essay, book chapter, or photograph).

You can:

  • Scan of a small portion of a physical item in SMU Libraries (for example, 10-15% of the work).
  • Post or link to a digital copy with the Readings & Resources Canvas tool.
  • Link to Library Search or directly to online materials with a permalink.
  • Scan a small portion of your own, legally purchased copy of a work.
  • Make a purchase request for materials we do not own. SMU Libraries will purchase electronic copies of books for unlimited users when possible.

Only post materials if the copyright status is clear. Do not post Interlibrary Loan materials since they are only licensed for personal use.

Copyright Notices

You must provide a copyright notice and store digital copies in Canvas. Include a scan of the copyright notice within the work itself, or provide the following:

  1. The copyright symbol © or “Copyright by…”
  2. The year of the copyright.
  3. The name of the copyright holder.

Example: © 1996 Jane Doe. All rights reserved.

Course Reserves

If your students need an entire work, placing it on course reserve is a good option.

The following items cannot be placed on course reserve:

  • Photocopies of materials
  • Course packs
  • Workbooks
  • Instructor Edition copies or manuals
  • Free copies that were sent for instruction
  • Advance Reader Copies
  • Interlibrary Loans

Other Options

If none of the above options work, you may contact the SMU Bookstore to request a course pack, request permissions from the publisher, or go to Copyright Clearance Center to seek your own license. Learn more on our Licensing and Permission Research Guide.

Information here is intended as a guideline and should not be considered professional legal advice.