Customer Support Center

Understanding copyright restrictions when building your course.

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2016 01:24AM EDT
This is a resource to help our instructors understand copyright boundaries on materials used when building a course. As an instructor, you're responsible for understanding copyright on assignments you create and making sure you are in compliance with copyright laws.

We encourage instructors to curate lots of great content in their courses, whether they have authored that content or not. We recommend including lots of links to external resources (websites), PDF documents and other helpful resources for students.

When using external materials, not created by or owned by the instructor, instructors must consider copyright restrictions around those materials.

The main takeaway is, if you are unsure about copyright restrictions for materials you are using in your course, create them as a 'resource' type assignment. This will link directly to the external website where that material lives and will also give credit to that website for the content.

Here are some other good rules of thumb:
 
  • Anything you get from a government website (DOE) is in the public domain. You can do anything you want with that content.
  • "Creative Commons" rules apply to anything you get from a company or individual. The copyright holder can specify the rules of what they allow us to do with their copyrighted material.
  • If the copyright holder does not specify, and most sources probably don't, the default is that they have full copyright protection.
  • If you are unsure about copyright restrictions for materials you are using in your course, create them as a 'resource' type assignment. This will link directly to the external website where that material lives and will also give credit to that website for the content.
  • If you own the copyright, or have written permission to use the content, then you can use that material in other assignment types (like videos or downloads). The main distinction here is where the content lives. If its a video or download type assignment, the content lives on HeatSpring servers and we must follow copyright restrictions. If its a 'resource' type assignment, then the content lives on the publishing websites servers and linking to that content follows copyright laws even if you don't own that material.
  • If a copyright holder asks you to remove their content from your course, please do so immediately and let us know.
  • In many cases, the copyright owner will be happy you're using their material to teach. You can send them an email and get approval - a simple email that says "OK" from the copyright holder means you're all clear.
We know this can be confusing, so please contact us if you have any questions about specific content you'd like to use in your course and we can help you figure out how to correctly use it.

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