Copyright and teaching activities

This page provides information to teachers on their course materials and the use of materials or works as part of their teaching activities. Information pertaining to student’s works (semester or other) can be found on the Services for students section. For questions concerning scientific publications, please refer to the Services for researchers section.

All the basic rules on citation are considered to be known. The lecturer owns the rights on the course materials he/she has created. EPFL has a non-exclusive right of use on the course materials in accordance with Art. 36 of the ETH Law.

The exception for teaching purposes (Fastguide #5) allows the teacher to use works or parts of works protected by copyright in the context of his/her courses, provided that the rights holders are properly credited.

Instructors retain the copyright on the course materials they created. As their employer, EPFL has the non-exclusive right to use these materials.

Course materials, collections of exercises, and exams are protected by copyright as long as they can be considered an intellectual creation with individual character as outlined in article 2 of the Loi fédérale sur le droit d’auteur et les droits voisins.

If students contributed to the preparation of lecture notes, the instructor has the right to freely use their contributions but is required to cite them or to specify them as co-authors.

Adding a © sign has no influence on the protection of a published work. It is, however, recommended to add a warning statement to lecture notes, such as:

“Any reproduction or distribution of this document, in whole or in part, is prohibited unless permission is granted by the author.”

The pedagogical exception (Fastguide #5) allows a teacher to use works or excerpts of works, however (s)he must imperatively:

  • Clearly indicate his or her sources
  • Respect the rules of citation

Depending on the type of work, rights may differ :

A teacher can distribute to the students excerpts of works, but cannot distribute a whole work. If students need to own a copy of a work (e.g. textbook, book, etc.), they have to borrow or buy it.

A teacher may, however, show audio or audiovisual documents in their entirety to the class.

EPFL teachers may reuse course materials created within the institution (EPFL’s non-exclusive right of use of documents created by EPFLemployees according to the Art. 36 of the Loi fédérale sur les écoles polytechniques fédérales).

In order to avoid any inappropriate use, it is recommended to add a mention “reproduction and distribution prohibited” on (excerpts of) works distributed in class.

The above rules do not exempt from the citation rules.

The deposit of a handout in Infoscience, even with restricted access to EPFL members, is not covered by the pedagogical exception (Fastguide # 5), which allows content protected by copyright to be shared within a class (including virtual as with Moodle). Therefore, it is essential to check the following points before any dissemination:

  1. Do several authors have contributed to the handout? If yes, it is necessary to request permission from all co-authors.
  1. Does the handout contain quotes and/or excerpts from other works of which the teacher is not the author (e.g. an exercise taken from a book)?
    1. Yes, but the extracts in question are short or of a small extent in scope compared to the original document. In this case, the sources must be cited according to the usual rules.
    2. Yes, large excerpts and/or entire chapters, pictures, or graphics are taken from other works. In this case, in order not to infringe copyright, it is necessary to request authorization from the rights holder (generally authors or publishers) and to cite the sources according to the usual rules.
    3. Yes, but the work from which the extract is taken is distributed in Open Access under a Creative Commons license (Fastguide # 3). In this case, the sources must be cited according to the usual rules.
    4. No: no specific recommendation
  1. Does the handout contain excerpts from articles or books of which the teacher is the author and which have been previously published?
    1. Yes, and there is only one author: for large extracts, entire chapters, pictures, or graphics, it is important to respect the copyright agreement with the publisher. In case of doubt, it is recommended to contact the publisher and ask for permission to reuse. Moreover, the citation rules in point 2 apply.
    2. Yes, and there are several authors: in addition to the previous recommendations (3a), permission from other authors is required.
    3. No: the teacher still owns his/her rights and can reuse the content at its convenience.

The teacher is responsible for the content in Infoscience. In case of doubt, please contact the Library’s copyright team at [email protected].

Provided that the consent of co-authors and the authorizations for third-party materials reuse have been obtained, an instructor may also share the courses materials under a Creative Commons license to authorize their reuse (Fastguide #3) and it’s recommended to add the following statement:

  1. Minimal statement:

This document is shared under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY

  1. Additional optional statement (that explicit rights):

You may use, distribute, and reproduce the material by any means and in any format, provided that you give credit to the author of the work.

  1. Additional statement mandatory whether the document contains external contents that are not under a CC-BY licenseThe wording is free and can be adapted as required.

Contents from external sources are not under a CC BY license and their use requires the authorization of their authors.

Unlike Moodle, MOOC (Massive open online course) is not covered by the pedagogical exception as the definition of “class” does not correspond to the spirit of the law. In the case of the MOOC, the author is not the sole rightful owner. The MOOC is distributed by a hosting platform that holds the rights to the additions (encoding, adaptation, etc.) but not to the course content, which remains the property of the author.

If the MOOC reuses third party works, you must ensure that you have obtained permission from the copyright holders (Fastguide #6)