Library:Copyright Resources/MOOCs Copyright Guide/Fair Dealing in MOOCs

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Fair Dealing in MOOCs


Fair dealing is nuanced and context-dependent. The following sections provide information about fair dealing with respect to certain content, but understand that they are by no means definitive. If you have questions about whether a particular use-case scenario would qualify as fair dealing, please contact the SCCO office.

  • UBC’s Fair Dealing Requirements apply only to the use of copyrighted material in closed educational environments such as physical classrooms and UBC’s learning management systems, and therefore cannot be relied upon in the MOOC environment.
  • Fair dealing does not apply where a license governs the use of the work and that licence does not permit use pursuant to the fair dealing exception. This is the case with some of the electronic resources obtained through the UBC Library, and with online materials obtained from websites with terms of use or similar legal notices that restrict fair dealing.


  • When the use of illustrations, graphs and figures is integral to the point of the lesson, and the picture or figure is subjected to sustained commentary and critical assessment, the case for fair dealing is strong. The SCCO can assist with determining if a specific use of an image is permissible under fair-dealing.
  • In many cases, an openly-licensed substitute (such as a picture carrying a Creative Commons license) or an image in the public domain can be found for those pictures that depict a specific subject but where a particular picture of that subject is not required. The SCCO can assist with locating such substitutes.
  • When the purpose of the picture is merely to break up the text in PowerPoint slides or illustrate them, these images can often be removed in order to reduce the burden of clearing copyright without harming the experience of an online, asynchronous course.

Audio/Video Materials:

  • Use of musical or sound recordings should be evaluated carefully and on a case-by-case basis. As with images, if the recording is subjected to sustained commentary and critical assessment, the case for fair dealing is strong. The SCCO can assist with determining if a specific use of audio/video material is permissible under fair-dealing.
  • It is always preferable to hyperlink to an audio or video file if one is available on the web. In those cases, students would be directed to follow the link, and then return to the learning unit. This is especially appropriate when the entirety of a work must be seen or heard before the unit will continue. Incorporating significant amounts of a musical or sound recording into a learning unit increases the chances that the course will generate a complaint from the copyright owner.
  • If linking is not practical and audio or video files must be provided directly, then the files used should never be longer than is needed to make the pedagogical point. Moreover, discussion of what the participants are seeing or hearing should be intermingled with the audio or video files wherever possible.
  • When a substantial clip of audio or video, which will not be intermingled with discussion, is incorporated into the lecture, rather than linked to, permission should be sought.