Make Use of Existing Content

  • Consider contingencies for difficult-to-share content

  • Follow relevant guidance on copyright and intellectual property

  • Explore "Mash up" options to re-mix and re-purpose

1. Consider contingencies for difficult-to-share content

As your engagement with this Teaching Online site indicates, you are working hard to adapt to the remote learning exigencies of a pandemic world. Unfortunately, not all parts of the academic ecosystem may be keeping pace. Many corporate publishers selling into the academic market, for example, are offering complimentary or discounted online access to some book and periodical titles during the pandemic emergency, but the scope and duration of many of these offers is uncertain. Furthermore, there are often terms and conditions associated with such “deals” that make the content in question difficult to share with your students.

This follows a regrettable pattern of behaviour on the part of some publishers to “lock up” online content as tightly as possible. Even when academic libraries pay — through purchase or subscription — to provide access to content for their university community, these arrangements often come with associated licensing conditions. In some cases, especially with the larger full text databases and e-journal collections, these conditions are reasonable, and need not interfere unduly with your students’ access to content: a persistent, “proxied” link to e-journal articles is usually the best way to accomplish this, as shown in the Share Course Content and Materials section of this guide.

In other instances, however, publisher restrictions can make e-products difficult to access: this is especially so with some e-books and digital videos. Certain e-books, for example, may limit the number of users accessing a title at any given time to just one (or two or three). The eBound / ACUP (Association of Canadian University Presses) collection, meanwhile, forces use of a proprietary reader platform that will hinder attempts to access titles from off-campus. The Library works hard to track and address such issues to the extent possible, but the great size and complexity of our e-book and other e-resource collections mean that we cannot anticipate every difficulty that may arise. We strongly recommend, therefore, that you contact your liaison librarian at the earliest opportunity to discuss any e-book or digital video titles you are planning to share with your students, so that we can ensure reliable access options are in place before course delivery begins.

Relatedly, we also encourage you to speak with your liaison librarian as soon as possible if there is a resource that was previously available for in-Library use — a printed book or a DVD, for example — that is not available online. In some cases, the Library may be able to secure access to a digital copy through purchase or subscription; we may also be able to make digital copies of portions of works from our on-shelf collections that are not currently offered online, thanks to the fair dealing provisions of Canadian copyright law and jurisprudence, but this will take time to arrange.

Even with the best and earliest efforts of all concerned, however, there will still be instances where the desired title cannot be made accessible to your students. With this in mind, we respectfully encourage educators to consider “second-best” backup options, with similar content / coverage, for titles that cannot be made available for online reading or viewing by your students. As discussed in the Share Course Content and Materials section of this website, the Library particularly recommends consideration of Open Access, Open Textbooks / OER, and public domain materials: this will address budgetary obstacles and, further, most publishers of Open resources are far less likely to put up technological barriers to access (proprietary readers, restrictions on number of simultaneous users, etc.).

Recommended Resources

Contact your liaison (subject) librarian

Open Educational Resources (OER) guide

2. Follow relevant guidance on copyright and intellectual property

It is very frustrating when content that would support your online learning plans cannot be made reliably or affordably available to you and your students, especially in the context of a global pandemic, when educators and students are already facing unprecedented challenges. These frustrations can be even more acute in cases where publishers are charging unreasonable prices or otherwise hindering equitable online access to educational content.

In such circumstances, there may be a temptation to consider “bootleg” options, but these must be avoided: good faith adherence to academic norms and best practice, including the Library’s Fair Copying Guidelines, remains important. Looking at the legal landscape, judges and legislators have not signalled any changes in the Canadian copyright law and jurisprudence in response to the pandemic. At the most, there have been some suggestions from some academic and professional groups, notably the Canadian Federation of Library Associations, to consider a more expansive application of fair dealing exceptions in the context of the current emergency, but these must be considered on a case-by-case basis: please contact your liaison librarian if you believe your particular situation may warrant a larger-than-usual amount of digital copying.

Recommended Resources

Fair Copying Guidelines

Fair Dealing Guidance for Canadian Libraries During the Time of COVID-19

3. Explore "Mash up" options to re-mix and re-purpose

In addition to the benefits of Open Educational Resources (OER) already discussed, a further advantage of this content is that it is shared through Creative Commons (CC) licensing, which offers the 5R rights — Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix and Redistribute. This invites and encourages creative adaptation of existing content to create new educational resources.

Since 2012, Canadian law has given further encouragement to consider creative adaptation, even for content that is not CC licenses. As the University of Ottawa Copyright Office explains:

Under section 29.21 of the Copyright Act, it is not a copyright infringement to use existing works to create a new, unique work, through remixing, “mash-ups,” collage or other creative techniques, as long as your use meets these conditions:

• It is not for commercial purposes.

• The original materials were published or otherwise made publicly available.

• You credit the source and creator of the original materials, if this is reasonable under the circumstances.

• The original materials you use seem to come from a legitimate source.

• Your new work does not have a substantial potential impact on the value of the original materials.

As long as you meet these conditions, you can even post your remix or other new, unique work on the internet, though you cannot monetize it.

In July 2020, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries issued a statement on OER, accompanied by detailed support materials, calling on university educators to further embrace these resources in response to the pandemic emergency:

The global events of 2020 have provided an opportunity to re-imagine many aspects of our world, including our approach to higher education. High quality, current, and barrier-free resources should be central to a student-focused, digitally innovative higher education system in Canada and globally.

Recommended Resources

The Time is Now for Open Educational Resources

Getting Started with OER