Sharing Course Materials With Students

Quick Overview: Sharing Course Materials Online - What are my options?
A lot of instructors share course materials with students online, via Moodle or other course websites. But even the most online-oriented instructor may find themselves handing out paper copies in class from time to time. Most of the issues involved are actually pretty similar, whether you are working with online copies or in-person copies.

The EASIEST OPTION - Don't Make Any Copies

Copyright issues with course materials usually arise because you're -making copies-. So, make life easy on yourself and your students by not making copies.

    How can you share course materials without making copies?

  • If the readings are publicly available online, -link- to them, or even just share the website address on paper or via email.
  • If the readings are available online via a University subscription, link to them. There are instructions on our website for doing this, or you can contact the Libraries Course Reserves Office - given enough lead time, staff members can create a linked list for you, that can even automatically show up in your Moodle site.
  • Have students buy a book that already contains the relevant readings.
  • Put books or journal issues containing the readings on reserve (physically) in the Libraries
  • Share citations for the readings with the students
    Please note, students may have trouble finding readings from citations; a subject specialist librarian may be able to come to your class to help students develop these skills.

Other Options

If you have to make copies to share course materials with your students, you will have to think about whether such copies are already permitted by law, or whether you will need permission from (and usually payment to) the copyright holder.

Fair Use

Fair use is a provision in the law that allows some copying without permission or payment. It is undoubtedly sometimes legal to make fair use copies of materials for students in a non-profit instructional environment - the text of the relevant statute mentions "multiple copies for classroom use." But is also undoubtedly true that not all non-profit instructional copies are fair uses.

At the University of Minnesota, instructors are trusted to make their own reasonable and informed choices about fair use. Which requires knowing something about how fair use works. You can learn more elsewhere on our website, or at a workshop.


Sometimes, there is no way to get students to a reading without making copies, and fair use doesn't seem to apply to the copying. Then, you may need permission to make the copies. (Or you may choose to find alternative course materials.

We can help you obtain permissions for course materials, for University of Minnesota courses. There is usually a fee involved for the students.

Creative Commons License Unless otherwise noted, all content on the Copyright Information section of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

This web site presents information about copyright law. The University Libraries make every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but do not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.