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Library Digital Resources as Course Materials

Information about how to link digital resources to course materials such as syllabi or class session documents in Canvas


This guide is intended to provide teaching faculty at Tulane University with information about how to link Tulane University Libraries resources--such as articles in online journals, eBooks, and films in streaming media format--to course materials such as syllabi or class session documents in the Canvas course management system, or otherwise online.  You may notice two points consistent throughout:

  1. Making use of high-quality library resources through course materials and assignments is important to teaching students patterns of good scholarship. 
  2. In doing so it's also important for instructors to adhere to copyright guidelines and licensing restrictions on published material acquired through the library, including material in formats available online.   

Copyright and Fair Use

Copyright: Copyright is a form of intellectual property and a legal right that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights for its use and distribution.  The exclusive rights are not absolute but limited by time and provisions for fair use.

Fair use: Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances. Section 107 of the Copyright Act provides the guidelines for determining whether something is a fair use and identifies certain types of uses—such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

The guidelines describe four factors in evaluating a question of fair use:

  • The purpose and character of the use, including whether the use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work

Generally, closer legal analysis has been applied to uses of portions of works combined and distributed in course materials such as workbooks or anthologies.  Use of more than brief excerpts from individual published works shared online can be considered contrary to fair use. Instructors can usually avoid potential fair use conflicts by linking directly to published works, rather than copying and uploading them.

Licensed Resources

Licensed electronic resources purchased or subscribed to by Howard-Tilton Memorial Library are restricted to use by members of the Tulane community and to on-site users of Tulane's libraries for purposes of research, teaching, and private study.  Licenses allow the library to extend full use of content in digital form to its authorized (Tulane) users via the campus network.  The content is still otherwise subject to copyright and under the library's licenses for electronic resources users generally may not:

  • Permit unauthorized users to use the licensed materials
  • Modify or create a derivative work of the licensed materials without the permission of the licensor
  • Remove, obscure, or modify any copyright or other notices included in the licensed materials
  • Use the licensed materials for commercial purposes, including but not limited to the sale of the licensed materials
  • Reproduce or redistribute licensed materials in bulk or in a systematic way
  • Post content or items from the licensed materials to social networking sites in ways that conflict with copyright guidelines

Related to licensing is the complex area of Digital Right Management (DRM), which involves technological means often employed by publishers or content vendors to control whether or how digital media (commonly eBooks, DVDs, or streaming media) can be accessed, copied, distributed, or reformatted. 

An alternative to commercially licensed resources are ones with Creative Commons licenses, e.g., copyrighted works whose authors or creators have chosen to extend certain usage rights to the public, including educational use.

Persistent Links or Stable URLs

A persistent link, also known as a durable link, stable link, or permalink, is a URL that connects to a record for a specific item such as a full-text article in an electronic journal subscription or an eBook on a publisher platform. Persistent links can be placed within Canvas, course syllabi and documents such as reading lists. With an inserted code routing users through an authentication system, these links can allow students to remotely access published resources licensed by the library and restricted to use via Tulane's campus network. 

When students click on an authenticated or proxied link to an article, database, or other licensed resource, they are prompted to log in to the network using their Tulane ID and password.  This preserves the authorized licensed use of the resource, even when accessed from off-campus.

The library uses a new method of providing proxied links to networked resources from off-campus. It's called OpenAthens, which is an identity and Internet Protocol (IP)- based authentication system that provides smoother access to the library's resources using your Tulane single sign-on (SSO) credentials. OpenAthens replaced our previous system, EZproxy. It offers more reliable and consistent access and should resolve the "proxy error" access issues many users encounter. If you have previously embedded EZprozy information in the URLs for resources listed in your course materials, please update your links.

For more information see this OpenAthens guide.  

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.