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Copyright in the Classroom

Managing Copyright in Instructional Materials FAQ

What are your rights as an instructor? According to the Ball State Intellectual Property Policy, instructors retain copyright to “traditional scholarship,” including syllabi and instructional materials created for on-campus or online courses. (There may be exceptions in unusual cases where the university has invested significantly in the course through a grant or other mechanism; staff in the Sponsored Projects Administration or Office of General Counsel can offer additional guidance.)

This means you have control over how your instructional materials are copied and distributed, and it’s your decision whether or not to share these materials with others online. You do not need to register your copyright or take any other specific steps.

 

My students are posting my course materials to commercial sites like Course Hero and I want them to stop. How should I communicate these expectations to students? There’s no 100% guaranteed way to prevent students from doing this, but you can be clear and upfront with them. In your syllabus and orally in class, let students know most materials they access—lecture notes, slides, textbooks, etc.—are protected by copyright, and they should not copy or upload these materials to Course Hero or similar sites without permission.

You may also want to add a copyright notice—© YourName Year—in a prominent location on your materials. Again, this is not necessary for you to keep copyright in your work, but it might be a good reminder for students.

 

I suspect my course materials are being posted online, but I’m not sure. How can I find out? Setting up a Google Alert is one way to get regular notifications about content that may come from your course. When logged in to your Google account, you can configure search terms or phrases. One simple one is Coursenumber “Ball State” –site:bsu.edu. This tells Google to look for materials associated with your course everywhere except Ball State’s website. Find more detailed instructions from Cornell University Library: https://copyright.cornell.edu/course_material

 

How do I request that any materials posted against my wishes are taken down? Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, you can submit a “takedown notice” to a website or Internet Service Provider if you believe content infringes your rights as the copyright holder. Cornell also offers instructions and a template for this: https://copyright.cornell.edu/course_material  

 

I would actually like to share some of my course materials online for students and for my fellow instructors. What are some good ways to do this? Again, you have control over your course materials, and sharing these online contributes to teaching and learning in your field. Possibilities include:

  • When you create courses, modules, or other learning objects in Canvas, you can share these globally through Canvas Commons. Here’s a brief how-to: https://community.canvaslms.com/docs/DOC-11221-38287725303
  • The University Libraries maintains Cardinal Scholar, a digital, public collection of scholarship and teaching materials by faculty, students, and staff. You can contribute instructional materials here, and they will be searchable via Google. Email Open Content and Digital Publishing Librarian Micah Gjeltema (mcgjeltema@bsu.edu).