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Course Reserves: Course Reserves and Copyright

A LibGuide to Inform Faculty and Students About Course Reserves and Important Copyright Considerations

Course Reserves and Copyright

Reserves -- Copyright Considerations

Physical Items:

  • Any physical item owned by the library (books, video recordings, sound recordings, or print journals) may be placed on reserve.

  • Any lawfully purchased personal copy of a book or video/sound recording may be placed on reserve.

Electronic Reserves:

  • In some cases, scans or electronic versions of material are permitted to be posted to share with your students.  However, some of this material needs permission and payment of fees in order to be legally used/shared as electronic course materials.  (Don't just assume that you are allowed to post anything for educational purposes under Fair Use!  Please see our helpful guidelines and considerations, starting with the information in the boxes to the right.  Copyright law is confusing even to experts in the field -- so if you are unsure, submit a request and we will assess your material's copyright status!)

  • To initiate the process of obtaining permission / copyright clearance to post electronic content on MyClasses, submit a Course Reserves request in the library's Course Reserves System. The library staff will conduct a copyright review on your behalf and, if needed, will seek permission from the copyright holder and pay any required copyright fees associated with your items (within reason).   

  • If your request is ultimately denied by the copyright holder, or the fees are exorbitant, the library staff will notify you, and we can help you select alternative resources, or you can choose to have your students purchase individual copies of the item.  If the item in question is a chapter or book excerpt, you can also ask that your library liaison order a copy of the book for Reserve, and students may come in and scan parts of that physical copy for personal use.

  • Re-posting of the same material to MyClasses/Canvas for use in subsequent terms within a calendar year requires a new permission. It is very easy to re-request items that you have already used!  To view your history, and select items you want to reuse, click on "Faculty log in" from the library's Course Reserves System.   You will receive prompts to guide you step by step.

Posting Links vs. PDFs in Canvas

What about posting articles found in SU databases? -- Posting Links vs. PDFs in Canvas

It is always preferable to post the LINKS that take the students to articles through our databases, instead of the PDFs. This benefits both the library and the faculty -- each viewing of the article is documented as usage, so that we can continue to justify paying for the databases that are being used!

The link from your Canvas page can take the students straight to the database's article record -- from here, students click on the PDF or full-text html version of the article. You just have to be sure to use a good permalink, or persistent link, easily available in most of our databases. Library and ID&D staff members are happy to help you identify/use stable permalinks to ensure quick, easy access to course readings.

Tip: Linking to library electronic resources and streaming media:   Use the persistent link provided for each item in a database to direct your students to electronic resources or streaming media. Add the following SU proxy prefix to the front of the persistent link for off-campus access to these items:

What CAN I post on Canvas for my students?

When can I just go ahead and post an article or book excerpt directly on Canvas?

You do not need to notify the library staff (or request permission) to post the following on your MyClasses pages:
  • open-access articles 
  • freely-available web-based material including material in the public domain
  • your own unpublished items
  • links to material in SU-subscribed library databases (including films available for streaming from Kanopy). 


In addition, you may be allowed to post material without copyright clearance/permission from the rightsholder/payment of fees IF your use falls under the guidelines of "Fair Use." 

More details on assessing Fair Use can be found in the box below (Fair Use Misconceptions), and by visiting the SU Libraries' guide to fair use.

Fair Use Misconceptions

The Copyright Review process involves assessing a set of fair use guidelines,  to determine if using a source is "Fair Use." 

You may be surprised to find out that material you assumed you could post under "fair use" actually does need copyright clearance!

It is a common misconception among educators to believe that any non-commercial, educational use qualifies as "fair use."  While there is often disagreement over what is a fair use and what is not a fair use, the fact is that "educational use" alone does not legally mean "fair use." 

You also may be under the impression that an excerpt totaling less than 10 or 15% of an original work may be posted under fair use -- this use is typically permitted ONE TIME for free by the publisher (usually "First Use" of this portion is considered fair), but repeated use (term after term) disqualifies the use as "fair use."  Any time you post a reading on Canvas for the second time or greater within one calendar year, please go ahead and submit notification to the Library staff!  We will need to pay for this, as it qualifies as repeated use!  

If you are not 100% sure that what you are posting is covered by Fair Use, please submit a Course Reserve request using our Online System.  Library staff will review the usage, assess copyright restrictions,  apply for permissions, and process fee payments when necessary (and within our budget). We usually can respond to your request within a workday, and permission often is granted in under 3 days.

Help from Library Staff

Please note that the Libraries provide guidance on copyright issues, not legal advice.
If you need legal advice, contact an intellectual property attorney.

  • For copyright questions, contact  Victoria Martin, Scholarly Communications Librarian, at; 410-543-6206

  • For questions related to Reserves, contact Cassy Lewis, Reserves Assistant, at;  410-548-9184

  • For publishing and self-archiving assistance, contact  Victoria Martin, Scholarly Communications Librarian, at; 410-543-6206

  • For research, locating potential course materials, or ordering books for the library's reserves collection, contact your subject librarian.