Copyright Guidelines

Boston College requires all members of its community to comply with U.S. copyright laws. Here are some standards to guide instructors posting material in Canvas:


All types of copyrighted materials, such as exercises, case studies, articles, etc., are acceptable to post on the Learning Management System as long as the material is legally acquired. It is preferable that either the department or the institution has purchased or licensed the copyrighted material. If material is available in a database licensed for use by the Libraries, the material can usually be posted on the LMS. If you are using a resource that hasn’t been acquired using university or department funds, contact your subject specialist in the Library to request the purchase.

Fair Use

Unless the material is in the public domain or the person posting the material to the LMS owns the copyright or has permission or a license that allows posting, use of the material usually requires a determination that the use falls within the Fair use exception to the copyright owner’s exclusive rights. Fair use is a flexible balancing test that requires a determination based on the particular context in each instance. A good faith effort must be made to assess overall whether a use is fair by considering the character of the use, the nature of the work to be used, the amount used in proportion to the whole and the impact on the market for the work.  Educational use satisfies one of the four tests to determine fair use. For more information, please see the Boston College Libraries’ LibGuide on Copyright and Scholarship: Fair Use.

Streaming Media

CTE staff can assist faculty members in determining how to use media in Canvas, and preparing and adding clips.  The following have become standard practice to assist a favorable Fair use outcome:

  • Accompany links with bibliographic information acknowledging the source, and a caution against using or sharing the media inappropriately.
  • Unless a license has been purchased to stream the entire video, link only to excerpts that are, collectively, no longer than needed to accomplish the educational objective (more than one clip may be used). If you have a question regarding how to obtain a digital license, please contact O’Neill Library Media Services. Please note that not all publishers make their programs available this way, and a typical response time for those who do is 30 days.
  • Provide additional context for the film clips (e.g. associating it with commentary, discussion questions or a related assignment).
  • Please note that URLs added as web links in Canvas generally open in a new window, so that the web address of the video is visible. Links can be embedded, however, which avoids this problem.


O’Neill Library’s Course Reserves service will scan or provide links to articles and book chapters so that students can access them via Canvas. Questions about copyright, length of materials and best time-frames for processing requests should be directed to: or 617-552-2297.

Further Assistance

The Boston College Library has numerous resources on copyright.

If you are not sure if your material can be posted on the website, a checklist compiled by the Columbia University Libraries Copyright Advisory Office can help organize your thoughts about the particular context of your use. The checklist is not a formulaic calculator of fair use. “It is first and foremost a tool intended to guide users through relevant variables and remind users that in a full and robust evaluation of fair use there might be additional points to consider before making a decision.”

If you have further questions regarding the use of copyrighted material for an academic website, please contact