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Copyright tips for the development of online modules

Copyright is “…the sole right to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part thereof in any material form whatever… or, if the work is unpublished, to publish the work or any substantial part thereof…” - Copyright Board of Canada (

Questions to ask yourself when using resources such as images and videos to create new material:

  • Who owns this resource? Whom should I contact to seek permission to use it?
  • How will I be distributing it? On the open web? Will a password be required?
  • Who will have access to my module once it is complete?
  • How will I acknowledge copyrighted material? Cite it where it appears? Include a list of references?
  • What will future users be allowed to do with the finished resource? Republish it? This might be a concern for others whose work you will be incorporating.

Using material owned by others:

  • Always seek permission from the copyright owner and/or check for pre-existing permissions (eg: Creative Commons or University licences). Simply including a citation may not be enough!
  • Usually the author is the copyright owner.
  • Make it clear that permission has been granted: use a caption that reads "reproduced with permission...”
  • Keep files outlining resources you have used and under which conditions. Keep letters of permission.

Protecting your work:

  • Assert your rights - on the web, handouts, unpublished - Set levels of permission and conditions of use - e.g., Creative Commons (see below).
  • Consider registration with the copyright office.
  • Ask yourself the questions above ('Questions to ask yourself when using resources to create new material').

Creative Commons (what is it? how can it help me?) :

  • Creative Commons is a set of licences that allow creators to reserve and waive particular rights to their work (ie: some rights reserved).
  • If you use a work in the manner permitted by the Creative Commons licence, you can do so without asking permission of the individual creator or licensor.
  • The core elements of Creative Commons licences are: Attribution, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives and ShareAlike (see
  • When applying Creative Commons to your work use the 'licence chooser' to help you select the most appropriate licence.


Copyright at Queen's -
Creative Commons Canada website -
Fair Duty by Meena Nair -
Queen's University Library Copyright Guide -
Michael Geist's Blog -

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