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Mary Baldwin University Copyright Policy: Canvas Use

Policy statements and guidelines for anyone affiliated with the University who wishes to copy, alter, or perform works that are protected by copyright.

Common Questions

Is content on the Internet copyrighted?

Much of what you would find on the Internet is copyrighted. It is common to assume that everything on the Web is in the public domain.  While it is true that documents on the Web (and in other digital formats) are easier to reproduce and distribute than other media, the ease of reproduction and distribution does not change the copyright.  Digital content is still copyrighted, and copying or reproducing it without permission may be illegal.  Some organizations grant permission to reproduce and distribute copies of their work (on a website) for nonprofit educational or library purposes, provided that copies are distributed at or below cost, and that the author, source, and copyright notice are included on each copy. 

Is linking to something on the Web a copyright violation? 

When you create a hyperlink from one web page to another, you have not made a copy of the original work, so this is not a copyright violation. Generally, you are also not expected to request permission to link to a web page, though it is often considered courteous to do so. 

May an instructor scan and upload a full or lengthy work and store it on a website for students to access throughout the semester-even for private study in connection with a formal course ?

No, the law permits students to access each "session" within a prescribed time period.  Students will also not be able to store the materials or review them later in the academic term.   Under the Teach Act, faculty are able to include copyrighted materials, but usually only in portions or under conditions similar to standard teaching and lecture formats.   The TEACH Act prohibits institutions from storing or maintaining material on a network where it may be accessed by anyone other than the "anticipated recipients"  (i.e. students enrolled in a course).  

Do course materials delivered through Canvas software meet copyright guidelines?

Yes, as long as the resource meets fair use or other statutory exemptions, an instructor can place copyrighted material in a section of a Canvas course site that is secure.  The distribution of these materials will be limited to students enrolled in the course and there will also be technological limitations on access to the materials - i.e. students must enter their network password and ID.  

May online course materials that accompany a textbook be added to a course website?

Yes, if an instructor places the material in a secure site (using FrontPage, Canvas, etc.), or if the publisher grants unsecured access. The TEACH Act prohibits institutions from storing or maintaining material on a network where it may be accessed by anyone other than the "anticipated recipients"  (i.e. students enrolled in a course).

Canvas and the TEACH Act

How does Copyright Law affect distance education and the use of Canvas?

The "Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act" (TEACH Act), became law in November of 2002.  It redefined the terms and conditions under which accredited, nonprofit educational institutions may use copyright protected materials in distance education. The TEACH Act expands the scope of materials that may be used; the ability to deliver content to students outside the classroom; and the opportunity to retain archival copies of course materials on servers.  The revised Sections 110(1)-(2), define the legal parameters for the performance and display of copyrighted materials in educational settings. 

Section 110(1) permits teachers and students in a nonprofit educational institution to perform or display any copyrighted work in the course of teaching activities.  Faculty and students may act out a play, read aloud a poem, display a cartoon or a slide, or play a videotape so long as the materials were lawfully obtained and are used for instructional purposes.

Section 110(2) as revised, permits the performance and storage of a nondramatic literary or musical work or display of any work as a part of a transmission for distance learning purposes if 

1) The transmission is provided solely for students officially enrolled in the course for which the transmission is made  

2) The institution employs technical measures to prevent:

  • the retention of the work in accessible form for longer than the class session
  • further dissemination of the work in accessible form

Best Practices

Mary Baldwin is committed to promoting practices that are in compliance with federal copyright law.  The purpose of this document is to provide guidance to faculty on how to utilize Canvas while remaining compliant with copyright law. It is important to note that posting an item on a password-protected site like Canvas does not exempt a faculty member from his or her responsibilities to adhere to copyright law. 

The following are general guidelines that faculty should always consider when posting material on Canvas:

(1)   Faculty should only post materials onto Canvas for a non-profit, educational use. 

(2)   Faculty must include the proper attributions and citations for all posted materials.

(3)   Faculty should include the following Copyright Notice on their Canvas sites:

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: The Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 10) governs the rights attributed to owners of copyrighted work.  Under certain circumstances, educational institutions may provide copies of copyrighted works to students.  The copies may not be copied nor used for any other purpose besides private study, scholarship, or research.  Users should not provide electronic copies of any materials provided on this course’s Canvas site to unauthorized users.  If a user fails to comply with Fair Use restrictions, he/she may be held liable for copyright infringement.  No further transmission or electronic distribution is permitted. 

(4)   Access to course materials on Canvas should be limited to the faculty and students currently registered for that particular course. Once the course is completed, students should no longer have access to any posted course materials.

(5)   Faculty must use best efforts, where feasible, to retrieve permission from the copyright owners of any material posted.  

Posting Copyrighted Material without Permission:

(1)   Faculty should never post the entirety of a copyrighted work without the copyright owner’s express permission.  For example, faculty should not upload an entire book onto Canvas.

(2)   Whenever possible, faculty should post a weblink (“link”) to a website instead of posting a copy of the website’s content onto Canvas. 

(3)  If linking to a website is not feasible, utilize the following chart which provides guidance on the use of copyrighted materials without permission.


Permitted Use 

Prohibited Use 

Website (containing copyrighted material)

Link to the Website via Canvas.

Copying and pasting the content of the website onto Canvas.

Web Image

Must be educational in nature; posted for one semester.

Repeated use over multiple semesters.

Article from E-Reserves or Other Library Database

Direct link to the article.

Copying and pasting the content of the website onto Canvas.

Complete Prose Work

Must be educational in nature and under 2,500 words.

Repeated use over multiple semesters; posting a work over 2,500 words.

Scanned Portion of a Prose Work

Must be educational in nature and either less than 10% of the entire work, or 1,000 words, whichever is shorter.  Unless the work is less than 5,000 words, then 500 words can be copied in any instance.

Repeated use over multiple semesters or use of more than the allotted percentages.

Scanned Article from a Journal, Trade Publication, or Magazine

A single article for one semester.

Multiple articles from the same publication or repeated use over multiple semesters.

Sources: Blackboard, Inc.’s Copyright, Fair Use, & Educational Multimedia FAQ;