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Integrating Library Resources into Canvas

Persistent Links & Copyright

When you find a worthwhile reading or video for the courses you are teaching, you have several options on how to make this material available to your students. Among these options are:

  • Making photocopies for each student or showing a video to students in your  F2F classes.
  • Putting articles, books, or videos on reserve in the library so students can view the material inside the library or make photocopies of the article or book chapters.
  • Uploading a copy of an article, book or video from a library database or open web to your course section/s on Canvas.
  • Linking directly to articles and eBooks and linking to or embedding videos from a library database or open web to your course section/s on Canvas. 

Issues to consider:

When deciding on how to make course material available to your students, issues include not only which options would be more convenient for you and your students, but also which options fall within Fair Use copyright guidelines. Providing persistent URLs to articles, books or videos is a one-stop shopping option that allows the database vendor or website owner/host to handle the copyright issues.

What are persistent URLs?

Persistent URLs (PURL - Persistent Uniform Resource Locators) are also known by terms such as:

  • Permalink (e.g., EBSCOhost & Academic Video Online Premium databases)
  • Get Link (Gale databases)
  • Record URL (Films on Demand database)

These are web addresses that remain consistent and seldom change over time. For example, the Reynolds Libraries homepage can always be reliably reached at However, links to resources in the library databases could change each time you try to access these resources, unless you know how to configure these links. Databases often create temporary session links at the moment you access these resources. Databases also create links to resources accessed from on-campus that are configured differently than links created for these same resources when they are accessed from off-campus.

What are the advantages of using persistent URLs? 

  • Responsibility falls on the database vendor to handle the copyright issues. You don’t have to go through the hassle of getting the necessary permissions to: place copyrighted materials in the library’s reserves, photocopy the material or upload the material into your course section/s on Canvas.
  • Familiarizes students with the library databases. Linking directly to articles, books and videos in a library database provides students the opportunity to see and use the database without having the added responsibility of evaluating and choosing resources from the database.
  • Students do not have to come to a Reynolds campus library. They can access this digital material at anytime and from anywhere.

How long will persistent URLs stay active?

A persistent URL will remain active as long as Reynolds Libraries or our library consortiums (e.g., VCCS, VIVA) continue to subscribe to the given database. In other cases, a database vendor may reorganize its database collections, change their domain name or lose licensing rights to specific journal, book or video titles. It is advisable to check links each semester to make sure they are still active.

Why should I use persistent links when I can simply upload a copy of an article or eBook chapter into my course section/s on Canvas?

The difference lies in the concept of making a copy. Material uploaded into your course section/s on Canvas are subject to U.S. copyright law (Title 17, US Code).

Examples of breaking fair use law:

  • Making copies of a recorded song written by a musician friend and distributing the song to others without your friend's permission.
  • Breaking into your musician friend's car or house to steal and make copies of a song she recorded. Then distributing or selling copies of that song.

Example of abiding by fair use law:

  • A musician friend invites you to her house to listen to a song she has written. If you are invited to a musician friend's house to listen to a song she has written, then all the security concerns are your friend's. There is no way that you could be responsible for the distribution of unauthorized copies of the song.

Let's compare the above analogy to providing your students links to resources in the library databases. This is like going to the database's house to view a resource. If someone hacks into the database's server and steals an article, book or video, it is not your fault. By linking to resources in the databases, you are taking the necessary security measures to ensure that only authorized users can access this copyrighted material.