Some instructors have become aware that the teaching materials they create for their courses are being posted to external, public websites. Examples of instructor-created materials that may have been uploaded without permission include lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, course syllabi, quizzes, and lectures.
Generally, in the absence of another agreement, instructors at York University own the intellectual property to the teaching materials they create. Students wishing to reuse instructor-created content must either request permission from the instructor or limit their use to one of the “user rights” set out in the Copyright Act. In most cases, copying or posting instructor-created materials to one of these platforms would qualify as copyright infringement. As the owners of this content it is the right and responsibility of instructors to monitor their intellectual property.
Instructors first need to determine that that they are the rightsholder of the work. Students will own the copyright to the notes, assignments, and all other course work that they create. If a student creates a summary that contains information from your course materials, then the student generally has the right to post that content because it is their own work. They would not be permitted to post content that an instructor has created.
What options are available if content you created is posted to one of these sites without your permission?
- If the student can be identified from the information posted on the platform you may wish to request that they remove the content.
- You may issue a notice to the website to remove the infringing material and to notify the individual who posted the content of your complaint. Notification must contain specific information about the content, the rightsholder, and the specific url for each infringing item posted on the site. Many websites will have online forms or email templates to register claims. Templates for notices can also be found on York’s copyright website.
- You may pursue a complaint under York’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty.
- You may consider taking legal action against the student involved and/or the website to defend your copyright. This is often not a practical solution and if you are contemplating such action you should seek independent, legal advice. York University cannot provide legal advice to a faculty member with respect to their intellectual property rights.
How can I make students aware of my intellectual property rights?
It is generally a good practice to state your ownership of materials you create for the course. It is also recommended that you include a notification on the course syllabus stating the limits on use for course materials.
Recommended Notice for Course Syllabi and LMS Courses
INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY NOTICE
These course materials are designed for use as part of the (enter course code) course at York University and are the intellectual property of the instructor unless otherwise stated. Third party copyrighted materials (such as book chapters, journal articles, music, videos, etc.) have either been licensed for use in this course or fall under an exception or limitation in Canadian Copyright law.
- Copying this material for distribution (e.g. uploading material to a commercial third-party website) may lead to a charge of misconduct under York’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities and the Senate Policy on Academic Honesty and/or legal consequences for violation of copyright law if copyright law has been violated.
Copyright Notice for Individual Works
© [year], Instructor name. These course materials are designed for use as part of the (enter course code) course at York University and are the intellectual property of the instructor unless otherwise stated. Unless a users’ right in Canada’s Copyright Act covers the particular use, you may not publish, post on an Internet site, sell, or otherwise distribute this work without the instructor’s express permission. Failure to abide by these restrictions may constitute grounds for academic misconduct proceedings and/or legal action against you.
Granting Permission for Students’ Reuse of Instructor Teaching Materials
If an instructor wishes to grant permission to students to reuse or post their materials, they can identify those works in the course syllabus or the footer of the document. Let students know that content you created is available through either an open access or Creative Commons (CC) licence. Information on the different licensing options available can be found on the CC website.
Who can I contact to get more information?
You may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for general guidance, concerns, or questions about copyright at York.