Copyright rules not an easy read

Copyright can be confusing at the best of times; in recent years it has further been complicated by the vigorous growth of electronic publishing.

While copyright for print materials is fairly straightforward, and outlined on our library help guide to copyright:, a whole new set of complications is introduced when dealing with copyright for digital materials.
As more courses go online, access to digital resources is extremely important. As librarians, we are seeing an increase in questions from instructors concerning digital copyright, and unfortunately, there is often no quick and easy answer to these queries.

Let's take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions:

Q: Can I put a copy of an article our library has full-text access to online?

A: No. You cannot download a PDF from one of our databases and post it to your Blackboard site. However, you can post the persistent URL to the site, thereby allowing students to click through directly to the article (validating with their username/password to enter the database if they are off campus). A guide to finding the persistent links in our databases is available in the library's how-to guides: Generally, you should be able to see a '' somewhere in the URL, indicating it is being routed through our proxy server.

Q: I would like to show a video in my class, but now this class is being taught online. Can I post the whole video on Blackboard?

A: It depends. We need to check to see if the 'digital rights' have been purchased for the video, and if not, either purchase these rights or obtain permission to post the video online. Even though Blackboard is a password-secure site, we still need permission to stream the video. The CRDC can help with the technical aspects, but ask your subject librarian to investigate the licensing issues.

Q: Can I put materials on e-reserve rather than paper copies in the library?

A: A pilot project is currently underway to investigate the feasibility of offering e-reserve as a standing option for access to course readings. Please contact Rumi Graham ( for further information about this.

Q: Are works freely available on the Internet subject to copyright?

A: Much of the material on the Internet is protected by copyright, including posts to news groups, e-mails, images, music, videos and software. You must get permission from the owner (usually the person or organization that created the material) to use this material. However, more material is being made available via the Creative Commons license, which means creators have agreed to make them freely available for certain uses (restrictions are usually stipulated clearly).
As you can see, copyright is rarely straightforward! Please contact your subject librarian ( for further guidance, or consult the aforementioned help guide on the library web site.