I teach in a university. I want to ask whether it is allowed to use slides or tutorials that I downloaded from the internet in my class. I don't make any modifications to the slide, which I want to show in the class room and distribute to my students. If the slides have the author's name on it, I will leave it there.

Should I ask for permission for using it and distributing it to my students?

2 Answers 2


Note: I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. Seek a lawyer's opinion if you need a definitive answer.

Merely finding something on the internet doesn't prove you have the right to use it.

  • It might be provided free for certain uses, but with restrictions.
  • It could even be completely illegal (such as stolen content).
  • Quite commonly, material will be posted without a clear statement of how you can legally use it. And under most copyright laws, it is presumed that you do not have the right to copy and redistribute material unless that is explicitly granted.

Check the license, if there is one. Some material might be provided with an explicit copyright license, such as one of the Creative Commons licenses. If so, you can simply check if reusing the material for academic use is allowed.

If there is no official license, but the website has an informal statement allowing the material to be reused, that's a gray area. Technically, this probably isn't sufficient to grant you a legal basis to use the material. However, I would probably be happy to proceed on this basis for a low-risk activity like handing out material to students.

If there is no license, seek permission. Contact the author and get permission in writing.

In either case, clearly attribute the material. If the author of the material isn't clear, add a statement. A copyright license, such as Creative Commons licenses mentioned above, may also have specific requirements for attribution, which you should follow.

  • 3
    I am also not a lawyer, but if you use only a small part of a presentation you found on the internet, for educational (non-commerical) purposes, this usually counts as fair use and is allowed.
    – Louic
    Nov 11, 2017 at 11:07

I see this happening often. Professor's use visuals (sometimes a lot more, I know people who literally link other course webpages and their notes as part of the class material) for given subjects from courses taught at other universities all the time.

Think about it, not everything can be handmade by you. Yes maybe all your written material is yours, but not the visuals.

But do seek permission. Maybe the author's are cool with you not using their name at all. Maybe they want a name in the references at the end of the lecture notes. Maybe just a scant mention during the lecture:

"So the university at X has done this M and this is interesting because K"

I guess it's okay as long as you dont pretend the work represented by the visual was done by you, for eg. if you use a visual representing a project done at a specific university, but then you fail to mention who did it and talk about it as if your own work, then I guess there could be problems if someone finds out.


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