What Can I Put On My Moodle/Canvas Course?

What Can I Put On My Moodle/Canvas Course?

Content is King

While it is great to have a course management system that makes it easy to upload material to your online course, keep in mind that these same features also make it easy to infringe copyright. As in any quality course, content is king. No matter what flash or special effects are built into a system, it takes someone (you) with a comprehensive command of the subject matter to fill the empty Moodle vessel.


Necessary Roughness

  1. Educational use alone does not automatically mean you can use copyrighted works freely in your Moodle course.
  2. Students hold the copyright to their works.
  3. Giving proper attribution is irrelevant in determining copyright infringement.
  4. Password-protecting a course does not automatically shield you from claims of copyright infringement or allow the upload of whatever you wish.


What Can You Use?

When you reproduce, display, perform and/or transmit/distribute copyrighted materials you are exercising at least one of the exclusive rights of the copyright holder. How can you do this legally without incurring liability or paying permission fees?

  • Use your own original works, as long as you have not transferred the copyright to another entity, or, if you did, you reserved the right to use the work for your own teaching, research and scholarship purposes.
  • Works in the Public Domain: the primary rule of thumb is that if the work was published in the U.S. before 1923, it is in the public domain.
  • You can use federal government works created by federal government employees within the scope of their employment.
  • The Performance and Display Provisions of the Copyright Act: Section 110(2), a.k.a. the TEACH Act allows:
  • Performance of reasonable and limited portions of movies and music as long as the av work was not specifically created for online mediated educational use.
  • Display of text, images, photos, graphs, etc. in an amount comparable to what you would have ordinarily shown in a traditional face to face classroom setting.
  • Requires access control at the class level and requires reasonable technological efforts to prevent the student from saving, downloading, printing, or otherwise having the work in accessible form after they log out of the class.

The Fair Use Provision of the Copyright Act: Section 107

If you are unable to fit within the TEACH Act provision, you are always free and encouraged to conduct a good faith fair use analysis, which consists of evaluating the facts of your situation in light of the four fair use factors.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. May I upload pdfs of articles or book chapters to my Moodle course?
  2. May I stream entire movies in my Moodle course?
  3. May I embed or link to entire YouTube videos in my Moodle course?

Q: May I upload pdfs of articles of book chapters to my Moodle course?

A: Where did you obtain the pdf?

If you downloaded it from our library’s electronic resource collection, the terms of the license for that resource will control what can be done with the content. Most of the licenses prohibit reposting materials but the Library informational help, you can link right to the work seamlessly so it will appear as though the pdfs are on your course site. For help with this, please contact your subject librarian.

If instead, you scanned the article from a non-licensed resource, such as a book or print journal, you will need to do a fair use analysis or give it to e-reserves where they will conduct the fair use analysis for you.

Q: May I stream entire movies in my Moodle course?

A: No, not without a streaming license.

Streaming an entire movie does not constitute transmitting the performance of “reasonable and limited portions". Furthermore, if the audiovisual work is an educational work created specifically for online mediated instructional activities or is a pirated copy, it is automatically ineligible for TEACH. Similarly, this scenario is unlikely to pass the fair use analysis because most of the four factors are not in favor of a fair use finding. Although it is a nonprofit educational use, it is not particularly transformative, the nature of the work is highly creative, the amount used is the entire work, and there may or may not be an effect on the market.

Q: May I embed or link to YouTube videos into my Moodle class?

A: Yes, there appears to be minimal risk in this activity as follows

One type of YouTube video is the type that may incorporate portions of commercially made movies and music. YouTube has a very sophisticated system in place that automatically immediately compares every second of every uploaded video with content in its rights management database and applies whatever rule the rights holder has attached to the content. Given the ubiquitous nature of YouTube, it is reasonable to assume that commercial rights holders will have deposited copies of their works in YouTube’s rights management database with accompanying instructions on what to do should any of their material show up in a video. Therefore, it follows that if a video is up for viewing on YouTube, the rights holder has allowed it. Watch this explanatory TED video: Margaret Gould Stewart: How YouTube thinks about copyright.

The other type of YouTube video often used is the homemade video.These are the ones you see of students sleeping in class, pets and children doing unusual things, and so forth. It is likely that the photographer, who is automatically the copyright holder, is the same individual who uploaded the film to the YouTube site in the first place, clearly aware that millions of people will view and possibly use or link to it. Based on that, there is a strong implied license to use it.

This information is educational in nature; it does not constitute university policy or legal advice. The only office on campus that gives legal advice is the Office of Legal Affairs.