Academic File Sharing Sites

Commercial academic file sharing websites (such as Course Hero and Chegg) provide platforms for students to share course materials with other students and to use the company’s collections of materials to study. Depending on the site, students and educators may be encouraged to upload lecture notes, quizzes, exams, study guides, or other course materials. Sometimes, a site will encourage students to add content to the site by offering free access to features and other content that users would otherwise have to pay for. This has meant, in practice, that copyrighted material has been posted to these sites without author’s permission.

If you do not want your course materials on these sites, you can have them removed and can decrease the likelihood of future sharing by following the steps below.

Getting Materials Taken Down

Because two of the most commonly used sites are based in the United States, American copyright law provides a straightforward mechanism for having copyright-protected works removed from websites that host user-contributed content. When works have been posted inappropriately, a copyright owner can send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to the designated agent of the website where the work appears.

As outlined in Memorial’s Intellectual Property policy, Memorial University instructors usually own their Intellectual Property, including the lecture notes, course outlines, study guides, visual aids, and other course materials they create. Any takedown notices for these materials need to come from the individual who has the rights to the Intellectual Property and therefore created them.

If you have found your own copyright-protected material, you can take the following approaches to getting the material taken down:

  • Check the website footer for a link like “Copyright” or “Terms of Use” to find a web form or the appropriate email address for a website’s designated agent for takedown requests (see link below for template takedown requests) or,

If found on a US-owned academic file sharing site, you can:

For some of the popular sites, web forms for DMCA takedown requests can be found at the following links:

To make sure you include all the required information and when a web form is not already available by the hosting site, you can adapt template takedown requests, shared by the University of Victoria’s Libraries.

Takedown requests usually take only about 5-10 minutes to complete, especially when using a web form provided by the hosting sites.

Preventing Materials from Being Posted

Here are four ways you can help prevent your material from being posted to academic file sharing websites.

1. Add signals for filtering tools to your course materials.

Use the following sentence in the header or footer of course materials: “This content is protected and may not be shared, uploaded, or distributed.Course Hero has provided guidance that its filtering tool will generally prevent the upload of documents that contain that statement.

2. Make your expectations clear to your students.

Let your students know what you want them to share and how. You can include a notice in your syllabus, such as:

  • “My lectures and course materials, including PowerPoint presentations, tests, outlines, and similar materials, are protected by copyright. I am the exclusive owner of copyright in those materials I create. You may take notes and make copies of course materials for your own use. You may not and may not allow others to reproduce or distribute lecture notes and course materials publicly whether a fee is charged without my express written consent. Similarly, you own copyright in your original papers and exam essays. If I am interested in posting your answers or papers on the course web site, I will ask for your written permission.”

You can also warn students that sharing copyrighted course materials on a commercial website may violate Memorial’s code, where all members of the University community are expected to “…uphold the highest standards of academic integrity” and could lead to an allegation of an academic offence. Memorial University’s Libraries offers further detail to students on academic integrity, including details on how using homework help sites would be considered cheating.

3. Use a copyright notice.

While copyright protection is automatic for any original work, a notice may draw students’ attention, and may also be caught by websites’ filters targeting inappropriately posted materials.

The form of the notice should contain the word copyright or the © symbol, the year the materials were created (multiple years may be listed when new material is added in different years) and the name of the faculty member. Instructors may want to add statements such as “All rights reserved” or “Authorization is given to students enrolled in the course to reproduce this material exclusively for their own personal use.” You may also want to include your email address and indicate that permission requests should be directed in writing via email to you.

Some examples:

  • Copyright 2022 Dr. Alice White, all rights reserved.

  • ENVS 2100, week six lecture notes © 2022 Dr. Alice White, all rights reserved. Requests to licence this work should be sent to:

  • ENVS 2100, week six lecture notes © 2022 Dr. Alice White is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License,

4. Share your course materials in Brightspace, Memorial’s learning management system.

If you post materials on a password-protected course website accessible to everyone enrolled in the course, students may have less reason to share them themselves on commercial websites.

The Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning makes every effort to provide accurate information but does not offer it as counsel or legal advice.

Material in this post adapted, with permission, from Course materials inappropriately shared on Course Hero and similar sites, University of California, under a Creative Commons BY-NC license.

Resource created by Gavan W.

(Page last updated on July 25, 2022.)