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Copyright and Coursera courses: Home

This page contains information about copyright issues in producing online courses (particularly on the Coursera platform) and offers suggestions for finding "open" content to reuse.

Making a MOOC? What you need to know about copyright

When delivering a course on Coursera, the massive open online course (MOOC) platform used by UWA and many other universities, it is essential to consider copyright implications before reusing any material created by another person or organisation. This guide introduces some key principles and offers suggestions for finding free-to-use materials.

The Library also has a more general guide about copyright and teaching.

The most important thing to know

Coursera is a for-profit company. Therefore, many of the usual educational exceptions that allow for classroom use of copyrighted materials without permission do not apply to Coursera courses

Dos (recommended practices)

Generally, Coursera advises instructors to:

  • Create their own content.
  • Limit their use of third-party copyrighted materials to cases where it is essential to the pedagogy of the course.
  • Obtain permission for use for any content owned by someone else, unless blanket permission for reuse is explicitly granted. 
  • Use content that is in the public domain or licensed for any use, including for-profit purposes. Creative Commons licenses are one way in which rights holders can grant explicit permission for use of their work.  
  • Include an attribution to the original source in slides or other class materials.  Acknowledgment may appear on a presentation slide or at the end of an individual lecture, but this is subject to any special requirements of the rights holder. For more information about citation and attribution, refer to the Library's referencing guides.
  • Whenever possible, link to a resource that is freely available online, rather than reproducing it in Coursera. 

Don'ts (practices to avoid)

  • Don't wait until the last minute! It takes a considerable amount of time to contact rights holders, pay the fees requested, or find alternative content.
  • If Coursera finds potential infringements, your course may be taken down immediately.
  • Avoid linking to content that may be infringing copyright.
  • Don't assume that copyright doesn't apply. Be aware that any type of audio, visual, or textual content may be subject to copyright laws, including screenshots of websites, book covers, organisations' logos, graphs (even from free-to-use data), maps, online videos, audio recordings...

Other notes

  • Even if you are the creator of published content, you do not necessarily own copyright. If your work has been published, check the agreement that you signed with the publisher. It may be necessary to seek permission before reusing the item in Coursera.
  • Coursera's terms of service state that students can only access course materials for their own purposes; they are not meant to be distributed more widely. 

Questions? Contact us

Contact the UWA Library for advice on finding free-to-use content for online units. Disclaimer: this web page offers general guidance only. For legal advice, contact UWA's Legal Services Office.

UWA on Coursera

Sample spreadsheet

The Excel spreadsheet below is an example of a register that can be used to track use permissions for materials to be used in a MOOC.


This page uses information with permission from a guide by Sarah Wipperman and Shawn Martin at the University of Pennsylvania, which in turn cites Kevin Smith, Duke University and Madelyn Wessel, University of Virginia.