Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyrighted Material in Canvas Faculty Guide

Guidance and information on the use of copyrighted materials in Canvas.


The Congress shall have Power ... To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

American copyright law gives authors of original creative works a number of exclusive rights in order to establish a financial incentive to create.

There are also some explicit exceptions to allow future creators to make limited use of these works to create new works of their own as well as allow educators and researchers to build on the work of others to further the progress of scholarship.


Your Rights as a Creator

Protected materials include written work, artwork, musical scores, choreography, and architectural designs that are fixed to a tangible medium.

The creators of these works are given the following rights for the designated period of copyright protection (usually the life of the creator + 70 years):

  • The right to make copies,
  • prepare derivative works,
  • sell or distribute copies, and
  • display and/or perform the work publicly.

Anyone other than the copyright holder must have permission to perform these actions with the copyrighted work, unless the use can be considered "fair use" or the item has fallen out of the term of copyright protection and is in the public domain.

Academic Authors

Authors of scholarly research sign over many of these rights to the publishers of paywall-based scholarly journals when the articles are published. Many authors choose to publish their work open access to maintain more ownership and give others greater flexibility in usage than traditional copyright agreements generally allow.

For more info:

Need to use copyrighted work in your own work or research?

Copyright owners can give you permission to use their work, but please note that if an article has been published through an academic journal, the journal owns most of the copyright on that article, not the author.

Fair Use

"Fair use" refers to the specific uses of copyrighted material that are allowed under copyright protection without requiring permission from the copyright owner (17 U.S.C. §107). These uses include criticism, parody, commentary, journalism, education and research.


New works of art and research are based on the works that came before, but copyright law can limit a creator's access to these works. As Judge Joseph Story noted in 1845:

“In truth, in literature, in science and in art, there are, and can be, few, if any things, which in an abstract sense, are strictly new and original throughout. Every book in literature, science, and art, borrows, and must necessarily borrow, and use much which was well known and used before.” (Emerson v. Davies, 8 F.Cas. 615, 619 (No. 4,436) (CCD Mass. 1845), quoted in Hudson Jr., 2004)

The fair use exemption exists for just this reason.

The ability to claim use of something under "fair use" relies on the following factors:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  • The nature of the copyrighted work;
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

(U.S. Copyright Office: Fair Use)


Hudson Jr., D.L. (2004, August 5). Copyright and the First Amendment. First Amendment Center. Retrieved from

Is your use fair?

The Fair Use Evaluator (see below) provides a guide to these steps, and creates a (non-legally binding) evaluation form at the end. Fair use tends to be decided by the courts on a case-by-case basis, so there's no single formula that will decide if a use can be considered fair or not.

More about Fair Use

Guidelines for Classroom Copying of Books & Periodicals

The following information summarizes the U.S. Copyright Office’s Circular 21: Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians:

Single Copies of Print Materials:
  • A single chapter from a book (5% of work for in print; 10% of work for out of print).
  • A single article from a journal issue or newspaper.
  • A short story, essay, or poem from an individual work.
  • A chart, diagram, graph, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal, magazine, or newspaper.
Multiple Copies of Print Materials for Classroom Use:

Permissible When:

  • Copying meets the following tests of brevity:
    • Poetry: A complete poem if less than 250 words and if printed on not more than two pages or, from a longer poem, an excerpt of not more than 250 words.
    • Prose: Either a complete article, story or essay of less than 2,500 words, or an excerpt from any prose work of not more than 1,000 words or 10% of the work, whichever is less, but in any event a minimum of 500 words.
    • Illustration: One chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon or picture per book or per periodical issue. 
  • Copying meets the following tests of spontaneity:
    • Copying is at the instance and inspiration of the individual teacher, and
    • The inspiration and decision to use the work and the moment of its use for maximum teaching effectiveness are so close in time that it would be unreasonable to expect a timely reply to a request for permission.
  • Copying meets the cumulative effect test as defined below: 
    • The copying of the material is for only one course in the school in which the copies are made.
    • Not more than one short poem, article, story, essay, or two excerpts may be copied from works by the same author, nor more than three from the same collective work or periodical volume during one class term.
    • There shall not be more than nine instances of such multiple copying for one course during one class term.
    • The limitations stated in "b" and "c" above shall not apply to current news periodicals and newspapers and current news sections of other periodicals. 
  • Each copy includes a notice of copyright. 
When Distributing Copies:
  • Copies made should not substitute for the purchase of books, journals, etc.
  • Always provide a copyright notice on the first page of the copied material. The American Library Association recommends using, "Notice: This material is subject to the copyright law of the United States."
  • Provide only one copy per student which becomes the student’s property.
  • Copying the works for subsequent semesters requires copyright permission.
The Following Actions Are Prohibited:
  • Copying may not be used to create, replace, or substitute for anthologies, compilations or collective works.
  • There shall be no copying of or from works intended to be "consumable," i.e. workbooks, exercises, standardized tests, test booklets, answer sheets, etc.
  • Copying shall not:
    • Substitute for the purchase of books, publisher's reprints or periodicals.
    • Be directed by higher authority.
    • Be repeated with respect to the same item by the same teacher from term to term.
  • No charge may be made to the student beyond the actual cost of photocopying.

Adapted from Copyright (DSC Library at Daytona State College) and used with permission.


Posting an item to Canvas for educational purposes does not exempt an instructor from copyright regulations. The information presented here provides guidance but should not be considered legal advice. 


Please email to consult with a librarian for guidance on the use of copyrighted course materials.
For all Canvas-related questions, please email to create a support ticket.