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Copyright Guidance: Shifting Your Course Online

Information for authors and users of copyrighted works.

Shifting Your Course Online

Shifting Your Course from In-person to Online

Transitioning your course from in-person to online teaching involves significant pedagogical and technical considerations, copyright should not be an additional concern. There already exists robust legal exceptions to copyright related to education and fair use that apply to in-person and online teaching. Making sure your online course content is limited to enrolled students through Canvas, Yale's learning management system, can help reinforce these exceptions. Please review the Tips & Good Practices webpage for guidance on the appropriate use of content in Canvas.

(This is an iterative document, please continue to check this link for resources and updates. Last updated April 16, 2024.)

Recording lectures and slides

If you have slides and lecture content for your students, you can likely continue to share instructor created materials through live video conferencing or recorded lectures. For information on how to use Canvas to schedule one-time or recurring sessions visit the Academic Continuity website from the Poorvu Center. Instructors can use their webcam or share their screen with course materials. There are also directions for how instructors can create voice-over slide presentations. Instructors often post lecture content to Canvas for students to access or review outside of class, this is no different.

Using audio or video

Using online video in teaching and learning is a common practice in higher education. Yale University Library provides licensed access to several streaming video resources that can be used to support and supplement traditional lecture content. Streaming video can help students understand complex concepts that are difficult to explain using only text. Videos are available in multi-disciplinary and subject specific collections. The Film Studies Research Guide & the Yale Film Archive can provide additional resources related to films.

Streaming video resources can be embedded directly into Canvas, and many platforms include closed captions and searchable transcripts. Instructors can use the University Library catalog to search for streaming video content and the Poorvu Center has information on how to capture and embed content into your Canvas course.

For multimedia content that is not available through the library, it may be more challenging. Showing video or audio in a face to face course is legal through the Classroom Use Exemption, but this same exemption does not translate the same way in online learning. The TEACH Act permits 'reasonable and limited' portions of audiovisual works, making brief clips of content that is central to your teaching can help adhere to these requirements. For media that cannot be made into brief clips, contact Course Reserves for additional assistance. You should also consider content that students can independently access outside of Canvas. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+ all offer options for streaming access.

Where to post your videos

You can post course videos on Canvas. Lecture capture videos on Panopto (Media Library on Canvas) can be linked to and embedded within Canvas. You also can post and link to videos you create on YouTube.  If you create and post videos posted on YouTube, keep in mind that some automated copyright enforcement, such as a takedown notice, or disabling of included audio or video content could occur. If you encounter something like this that you believe to be in error, you can contact for assistance.

Course readings and other resources

Licensed resources are provided by the library for Yale users. Stable web-links, or permalinks, for e-books, articles, and streaming videos can be embedded directly into Canvas modules. From there, students will login to the library through CAS to authenticate their access. 

When off-campus, users sign in through VPN to access material. More information on linking for off-campus access, including an off-campus linking tool, is available on Off-Campus Access to eResources.

(In light of the COVID 19 pandemic, some vendors provided expanded access to their content.  As of September 2020, expanded access to most content expired.) 

If you need assistance finding supplemental online content for your students, contact your subject specialist.


When possible, link to a legitimate online copy of the work instead of posting or uploading it in Canvas. Linking helps to mitigate the risk of infringement when using legitimate resources. Use your best judgment to determine authenticity; for example, it is unlikely Disney authorized the full reproduction of the Black Panther film uploaded to YouTube by PantherFan510. As mentioned above, links to library licensed materials using permalinks that can be embedded directly into Canvas. 

Sharing copies

Depending on the content, there are different options for sharing materials with your students. Sharing portions or specific sections of works in an educational setting is often considered a fair use, whether it's in-person or online. Fair use exists as an exception to copyright law allowing the use of copyrighted materials without permission for certain purposes. A finding of fair use is based on four factors: the purpose of the use, the nature of copyrighted work, the amount of the work being used, and the effect of the use on the market for the copyrighted work. More information on fair use, including conducting a fair use analysis, is available through the Yale Office of General Counsel.

If you don't feel comfortable relying on fair use, reach out to your subject specialist and they may be able to help suggest alternative content that is already available online through library subscriptions or publicly available content. Asking permission from the copyright owner is another option, but it may be difficult to negotiate a license for some material. 

Ownership of online course materials

The Yale Copyright Policy affirms that faculty own the copyright in their scholarly writings and creative works. Considering the global pandemic, the Office of the Provost has provided clarification on faculty ownership of instructional material. The statement clarifies that “scholarly writings” under the Yale University Copyright Policy include instructional content and materials originally authored by individual instructors that are shared in online teaching. The University cedes copyright ownership in such instructional content and materials, even in cases where digital versions are created using Yale-supported technology. The policy clarifications decided by the Office of the Provost will remain in effect through December 31, 2020.

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.



Contact for further information or assistance.

Review the Office of General Counsel’s resources for information on fair use and TEACH Act.