Teaching Materials

[Updated: 25 Mar 2024]

This page provides guidance on copyright issues for instructors to consider in the creation of teaching materials, and for the use of those materials.

See the Course Materials page for information about providing print or digital course readings to students.

Creating Teaching Materials

When creating instructional tools, such as presentation slides, instructor notes, manuals, guides, and so on, you may find it necessary to incorporate copyright-protected content. The following provides information to consider and guidelines to follow.

Original Content

Any original content you author and own can be used as you like. However, if your material was published, you may have assigned copyright ownership to the publisher, so review the terms of your publication agreement for ownership and use information.

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Modules:

Publishing Agreements

Third-Party Content

Third-party content is a work, or part of a work, for which you do not own the rights. If you want to include copyright-protected third-party content within your teaching materials, first identify any terms of use applied to that content. If there is no information to indicate how the material can be used, or if your intended use differs from what is indicated, you may need to contact the copyright owner for permission. These sample permission letters provide a starting point for making such requests.

If it is not possible or feasible to obtain permission for your use of the content, it may be reasonable to rely on exceptions in the Copyright Act, depending on the amount and type of content you wish to use and the purpose for its inclusion in your work.

The following sections on this page describe some types of third-party content, and some issues to consider for their use.

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Module:

Including Third-Party Content in Your Work 

Licensed or Subscription Content

You can often incorporate material that is pre-authorized for educational use under a licence, subscription, or other contractual permission. Review the terms for conditions and/or limitations before including content in course instructional tools.

Examples of licensed resources include:

  • Publisher licensed content that accompanies a textbook you are using (e.g., "for classroom use" often means you have permission to share it with students registered in your class);
  • Licensed library resources might allow for your intended use, but terms can vary between resources so be sure to check the terms specific to the content you would like to use;
  • Creative Commons or other openly licensed material;
  • Personal subscriptions and restricted access collections might allow for your intended use, but you should pay particular attention to the terms of the subscriber agreement. 
See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Modules:

Licensed Library Resources 

Online Content

Unless the website indicates otherwise, most material available online is subject to protection under the Copyright Act. Rights holders sometimes provide terms of use on the website where you access the work. Check the hosting website’s "copyright," "permissions," or "terms of use" section(s) for any information about intended uses. 

Using online content for educational purposes may fall under the "internet exception" in s. 30.04 of the Copyright Act. This exception allows for the use by an educational institution of material found on the open web provided that: the material is obtained from a lawful source;  the work is properly cited; and there is no clearly visible notice on the website prohibiting such educational use.  

Works in the Public Domain

Once the general term of copyright for a work has expired, the material is no longer subject to protection under the law and may be freely used. In Canada, the general term of copyright is life of the author plus an additional 70 years (increased from life plus 50 years effective 30 December 2022, without retroactive effect). Work through the online Canadian Public Domain Flowchart to help determine whether a work is in the public domain. 

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Module:

Public Domain 


For additional resources, see the Licensed & Royalty-Free Content section of our website. 

Sharing Presentation Slides

The information in this section pertains to presentation slides. See Sharing Your Teaching Materials Online for information related to teaching materials in general, and the copyright issues to consider when sharing those materials.

Displaying Slides in the Classroom

If you want to display copyright-protected material in the classroom, you can do so under an educational exception in the Copyright Act. The Act states that it is not an infringement of copyright to project a work using a projector or similar device (i.e., PowerPoint slide) for the purposes of education or training on the premises of an educational institution.

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Module:

Copyright Act, Sections 29.4 – 30.03: Educational Institution Exceptions 

Distributing Slides to Students

If you want to provide students with copies of slides displayed in the classroom, the Copyright Act includes a fair dealing exception for the limited use of copyright-protected material where the purpose is to support research, private study, or education. It is important to make clear to students any limitations on the intended use (especially around reproduction and distribution). These limitations are relevant not only to the instructor's own content, but also to any third-party content that might be included in the slides.

Consult the guidelines for Using Images for more information on displaying and distributing copies of copyright-protected images.

See also, Opening Up Copyright Instructional Modules:


General Guidelines for Sharing Third-Party Content

  • Indicate the title of the work reproduced (if available), as well as the author and source for each excerpt.
  • All copying must comply with the amounts and limits defined in the University of Alberta Fair Dealing Guidelines, except as otherwise noted.
  • When using images, if you have a choice between high or low resolution options, choose the low resolution.
  • Exercise due diligence in ensuring the copy reproduced is made from a lawful source.
  • Limit distribution to students enrolled in the course.
  • Upload materials to a secure LMS operated by and under the control of the University. 
  • Include the following notice:
    "Copyright-protected material contained herein is reproduced either with permission from the rights holder or under the terms of the Copyright Act. This material is being made available for your individual use; other use of this material has not been authorized and may require permission of the rights holder".

Copying outside these guidelines may be permitted depending on intended use. The Copyright Office can assist in such cases. 

Showing Movies

Under an exception in the Copyright Act, instructors may show a movie to students on the premises of the University for educational purposes. There is no requirement to report the movies you show. To learn more about showing a film for a course or campus event, see Showing Movies


Questions about copyright and how it relates to the use of teaching materials can be sent to the Copyright Office at copyright@alberta.ca.