The Library and Canvas: Research Guides & Tutorials

Use and link to library resources as open access content directly into your Canvas courses. In this guide you will find a variety of ways to embed resources, but if you would like additional support, please contact our subject librarian.

Fair Use and Canvas

Content on Canvas is similarly protected as Library resources. Students must use their secure sign in Odin account to access both their courses and licensed Library material. 

Portland State University policies are compliant with licensing terms with their vendors as well as U.S. Copyright Law. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the statutory framework for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses (such as teaching, scholarship, criticism, comment, reporting, and research) as examples of activities that may qualify as fair use. For further information on Fair Use, and to access tools to help you assess your use of copyrighted material, please refer to the library's Fair Use & Tools and Checklists page in this Copyright Guide. 

Licensed Library Resources and Course Reserves

If material is available in a database licensed for use by the Library, licenses typically allow the material to be linked in Canvas or Course Reserves. Linking to material on a website does not typically require a fair use determination. To learn how to link to licensed content, please see Persistent Linking to Library Content. 

Best Practices for Fair Use and Content on Canvas

Education use is often seen as fair, however it only satisfies the first factor in a fair use analysis. It is useful to follow these practices when assigning readings of copyrighted content on your course page:

  • Avoid posting content that is marketed for use in courses (textbooks or workbooks, for example)
  • Terminate students' access to the course material when the course is over.
  • Embed links in a password protected environment restricted to a class, such as a Canvas course site
  • Accompany links with bibliographic information acknowledging the source, and caution against using or sharing the content inappropriately (use the suggested Copyright statement at the top of this page)
  • Use only the amount of material needed to convey your educational objective (reasonable portions of a work)
  • In the case of videos, link to licensed library content to stream full movies. If it is not library content, link only to excerpts that are no longer than absolutely needed to accomplish your pedagogical aims. 
  • Provide additional context for the materials (such as associating it with commentary, discussion questions, or a related assignment).   

Copyright and Canvas

It is possible to make course materials available electronically on the Canvas platform, but please be aware of copyright considerations when doing so. Below, are some frequently asked questions. For more general information about copyright, please visit Portland State University Copyright Guide.

Should I upload material to Canvas, or link? 

Linking is preferable because:

  • You'll avoid inadvertent copyright violation
  • It complies with library subscription terms
  • The library (and article authors) are able to track downloads of a resource--it helps us to know if the scholarship we subscribe to is well used by our community
  • Posting PDFs can be cumbersome for the University in terms of data storage
  • Need to more about how to link? Please see Persistent Links to Library Content
Can I embed videos or music to my Canvas course site? 

If you are using Library-licensed audio or video media, please link to the library's catalog. 

If you are using freely available content online, evaluate whether it was posted legally, it's quality, and whether it meets accessibility standards for your students. 

What about images?  If you are putting copyrighted images (yours or others') on your Canvas page, there are some precautions you can take to protect them from download and distribution. For instance, you can use digital watermarks, low resolution images or thumbnails. For more information, refer to this post from
Is scanning or digitizing course readings considered "making a copy"?  Yes. If you are uploading scanned documents, including material that the library owns, that is considered making a copy. If the scanning exceeds Fair Use, you would need to secure permission from the publisher/copyright holder. 
Can I post readings I have obtained via ILL (Interlibrary loan) to my Canvas page?  ILL items are provided for the purpose of individual study, and are not typically licensed for the purpose of class use (these readings are obtained for you by the library, not for whole courses. In this case, it is better for you to post the citation, and have students request it from the library themselves. 

Canvas Commons

Canvas Commons is a repository of learning objects, and is an extension of Canvas itself. Educators can find, import, and share their resources. This is a digital library of educational content. The best practices and advice given on this page also applies to content you are using and sharing on the Commons. If you choose to share publicly in the Commons, make sure your copyright considerations take into account that your content will be viewable by educators at other institutions. 

If you have more questions or need assistance, please contact the Office of Academic Innovation


Copyright Notice to Students in Online Courses

Suggested language to use in your Canvas Course: "The materials on this course website may be subject to copyright. They are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for the purposes and time period associated with this course and may not be retained or further distributed." 


This guide was created for Portland State University instructors using Canvas. It referenced existing guides from other educational institutions including University of Kansas City, Boston College, and Massasoit Community College