Protecting Your Work From Being Shared to Third-Party Commercial Sharing Sites

Students sometimes upload instructor-created materials to third-party commercial sharing sites. Unless you give permission, this can be a violation of the Improper Distribution of Course Materials Policy that took effect in fall 2021. This is an “opt-in” policy, so in order to be able to charge students with this violation, you must include language in your syllabus.

Note that this policy is not intended for those times when students post questions to companies or sites looking for answers (those instances are processed under the Academic Integrity policy), but rather when they post information for the purpose of sharing rather than cheating.

Follow these steps to protect your intellectual property:

1. Opt in to the Improper Distribution of Materials policy by including it in your syllabus.

The recommended language is:

All materials prepared and/or assigned by me for this course are for the students’ educational benefit. Other than for permitted collaborative work, students may not photograph, record, reproduce, transmit, distribute, upload, sell or exchange course materials, without my prior written permission. “Course materials” include, but are not limited to, all instructor-prepared and assigned materials, such as lectures; lecture notes; discussion prompts; study aids; tests and assignments; and presentation materials such as PowerPoint slides, Prezi slides, or transparencies; and course packets or handouts. Public distribution of such materials may also constitute copyright infringement in violation of federal or state law.  Violation of this policy may additionally subject a student to a finding of “academic dishonesty” under the Academic Integrity policy and/or disciplinary charges under the Student Code of Conduct.

2. Make your students aware of the policy.

It is a good idea to include this statement after the academic integrity statement. You can draw attention to it in writing by bolding it, but also take time to overtly discuss and explain it in class. These companies are somewhat aggressive in reaching out to students and enticing them to share course content. They make themselves look very legitimate. If students aren’t informed that this is unacceptable and why it matters, they may be tempted to participate in these sites.

3. Report violations to the Office of Academic Integrity.

Students often view sharing instructor materials as harmless, so it’s important for them to understand the pivotal role of intellectual property in the university setting. The process for reporting follows the same procedures as an academic dishonesty offense except for use of a different report form. 


The standard sanction for this offense is an educational tutorial, developed by UB Libraries, about the value of intellectual property. Once reported by the instructor, the Office of Academic Integrity will facilitate this process with the student. The goal is education for students so that they will not commit a repeat offense.