Copyright Frequently Asked Questions

Copyright Basics

Copyright for Instructors and Teaching Assistants

Copyright for Students

Copyright for Researchers

Copyright for Authors and Creators

Copyright for Books, Articles and other Text-based materials

Copyright and Images

Copyright and Media

Copyright Basics

What kinds of works are covered by copyright?

Copyright protection exists automatically for every work that is created, whether or not it is explicitly stated on the work or marked with the copyright symbol.

In Canada, copyright protection generally remains in effect until fifty years after the death of the author or creator. Once copyright has expired, the material is considered to be in the public domain.

Copyright applies to all of the following genres: books and periodicals (both print and electronic), charts, computer software, diagrams, films, graphs, letters, maps, models, music, photographs, recordings, TV shows, videotapes, web sites, and works of art.

What policies, laws and licenses govern the use of copyrighted works at post-secondary institutions?

Making copies of copyrighted works is governed by the provisions of the Canadian Copyright Act. In general, permission of the copyright owner is required in order to make copies of a work. However, the Act contains a number of exceptions that permit some limited uses for educational and other purposes, without the need to obtain permission.

To assist universities with determining what may be legally copied under the Copyright Act, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) has provided a Fair Dealing Policy (PDF - 20kb), which includes Copying Guidelines to assist University faculty, staff, and students when making copies of copyrighted works.

When copying from materials that are covered by a license with a publisher, such as e-journals, e-books and other electronic content that the Library has purchased, it is important to note that use will be governed by the terms of the specific license or contract.

When can I make copies without requiring permission?

Canada's Copyright Act makes some provisions for copying works without the consent of the copyright owner or the payment of royalties. These "exceptions", such as the fair dealing exception, allow copies to be made within defined limits for certain purposes.

Works that are in the public domain can also be copied without permission. Public domain works are those in which copyright has expired, usually fifty years after the death of the author or creator.

Copying may also be permitted when the work to be copied is covered by a license, such as some of the agreements that the university has with publishers that provide access to electronic journals and books. Limitations on what can be copied will vary from license to license; e-mail fairdealing@uoguelph.ca for information on specific journals and/or licenses, or use the “Click below for details on permitted uses” link displayed in the library’s e-journal “Get it” menus.

What exceptions are there for educational copying?

The fair dealing exception (Section 29, 29.1 and 29.2 of the Act) permits some types of copying that may take place at an educational institution.

Fair dealing allows an individual to copy, without permission, a short excerpt of a published work for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, parody, or satire.

Another educational exception (Section 29.4) permits the display of a copy to students in a classroom for the purpose of education or training.

Similarly, the Act permits the making of copies for use in a test or examination, on the premises of an educational institution (Section 29.4 (2)).

It also permits performances of works, such as sound recordings, films, videos, or live performances, for students during a class (Section 29.5).

Another exception (30.04) permits the copying, performing in public, or communication of, publicly available Internet materials to students for educational purposes, provided there is no clearly visible notice prohibiting such use.

Note, however, that there are limitations on how these exceptions can be exercised. For example, some of the above exceptions do not apply if the work being copied is commercially available in a medium that is appropriate for the purpose required. Most exceptions also require that the original source of the copies be cited.

Note also that the Copyright Act prohibits the removal of a technological protection measure that restricts access to a work (i.e. a digital lock) in order to make a copy. Removing or circumventing a digital lock of this type is considered an infringement even if the copying would otherwise be permitted under an exception in the Act.

What is fair dealing?

Fair dealing is an exception present in the Canadian Copyright Act which permits the making of copies, without needing to seek permission from the copyright owner, for certain specific purposes. The purposes which are considered to be “fair” are research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, parody, and satire.

Recent rulings by the Supreme Court of Canada further clarified the scope of fair dealing in the education sector, reversing a previous ruling that copies made by instructors for their students do not fall under the fair dealing exception.

As a result, instructors who wish to distribute short excerpts of copyrighted material to their students, whether by providing classroom handouts, creating course packs, or posting content on course management systems such as CourseLink (D2L), can utilize the fair dealing exception to do so. For longer excerpts, permission from the copyright owner will need to be obtained. For more information, contact Heather Martin, Copyright Officer, at extension 54701, or send an e-mail to fairdealing@uoguelph.ca. You may also wish to consult the Copyright Guide for Instructors (PDF - 147kb) on the Library’s web site.

The Association of Universities and Colleges in Canada (AUCC) has developed a Fair Dealing Policy (PDF - 20kb) for universities, containing guidelines to be used by University faculty, staff, and students when making copies of published works. Requests for the making of copies which fall outside of these copying guidelines should be referred to Heather Martin, Copyright Officer, at extension 54701 or fairdealing@uoguelph.ca.

What is a Creative Commons License?

Creative Commons licenses are a way of licensing materials on the Internet so that they may be easily copied or reused by others. There are several different levels of Creative Commons (CC) licenses, each of which permits specific types of reuse. Materials that have a CC license can be used without obtaining permission, provided you attribute the creator of the work, and adhere to any conditions specified by the license. For more information, see the Creative Commons website.

What is Open Access?

Open Access materials are scholarly resources that are in a digital, online format and are free of charge to the user, as well as free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. In most cases you may copy or use the work without obtaining permission, provided you attribute the author. Content in Open Access publications is often licensed using a Creative Commons license.

Copyright for Instructors and Teaching Assistants

Can I hand out photocopied materials to students in my class?

Short excerpts from books, journals, newspapers, and other copyrighted works, may be copied and distributed to students without permission under the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act. A short excerpt is defined as 10% or less of the copyrighted work, or one chapter. Copying of longer excerpts may require the permission of the copyright owner. If you need to obtain permission, send your request to fairdealing@uoguelph.ca, and permission will be sought on your behalf.

Alternatively, you could use Course Reserves to provide students with access to the required content, as all reserve content is copyright-cleared. Requests to place readings on reserve may be submitted through the Ares Course Reserves system.

If your photocopies are from a library licensed e-journal or e-book, you might instead link directly to the online content from CourseLink (D2L) . Some e-journal licenses also permit the distribution of print copies of individual articles to students; e-mail fairdealing@uoguelph.ca for more information, or to obtain durable links to e-journal and e-book content.

Copies of material found on the Internet may also be copied for students for educational purposes, provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and that there is no clearly visible notice on the original web site prohibiting such use

I have included figures from books and articles in my lecture notes. Is that permitted?

Using figures and images from copyrighted sources in lecture notes that you are displaying to students in a classroom setting does not require permission, as it is allowable under one of the educational exceptions in the Copyright Act.

Also, the fair dealing exception permits the posting of short excerpts, which would include figures and illustrations contained in other works, on a course management system such as CourseLink. You can therefore include figures and illustrations in lecture notes posted on CourseLink provided you are not copying more than 10% of a single work.

If the figures are from e-journal articles or e-books, then the license with the e-journal publisher may permit posting in a course management system (CMS); e-mail fairdealing@uoguelph.ca for more information, or use the “Click below for details on permitted uses” link displayed in the library’s e-journal “Get it” menus.

It is also possible to use figures and illustrations from the Internet provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and that there is no clearly visible notice on the original web site prohibiting such use.

Can I scan a chapter of a book and post it on CourseLink for my students to read?

Like photocopying, the scanning of short excerpts of copyrighted content to distribute to students is permitted under the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act. A short excerpt is defined as 10% or less of the copyrighted work, or one chapter. Copying of longer excerpts may require the permission of the copyright owner. Consider using the Ares Course Reserves system to provide students with access to the required content. All reserve content is copyright-cleared, and can be linked to directly via CourseLink or a course web site.

Can I put a PDF of an article from a library e-journal on CourseLink?

Some electronic journal licenses do permit PDFs of articles to be posted in course management systems or on password-protected course web sites. However, linking directly to the article in question is preferable. E-mail fairdealing@uoguelph.ca for more information about e-journal licenses, or to obtain durable links to e-journal and e-book content. You can also find this information by using the “Click below for details on permitted uses” link displayed in the library’s e-journal “Get it” menus.

Is it permissible to make a copy in an alternate format for a student with a disability?

The Copyright Act contains an exception which permits the making of a copy in an alternate format for the benefit of a person with a perceptual disability, provided the work is not already commercially available in the format required. Note that large print books and cinematographic works are excluded from this exception.

Can I show a movie or documentary in the classroom?

Public performance licences are no longer required for the showing of films and videos in class for the purpose of education or training. It is also possible to show a copy of a news broadcast or news commentary program in class. Copies of other types of TV broadcasts require that records be kept and royalties paid for classroom showings. For more information, check with the Library’s Media Specialist at extension 52313 or e-mail kmoon@uoguelph.ca.

Copyright for Students

Can I e-mail a PDF of an e-journal article to a fellow student or faculty member at the university? How about to a colleague at another university?

Sending a PDF of an e-journal article to a colleague at the University of Guelph may be permitted, depending on the terms of the license with the e-journal publisher. Usage rights for many of the Library’s e-journals are displayed in the E-Journals List on the Library’s web site, or can be obtained by e-mailing fairdealing@uoguelph.ca.

However, license terms normally restrict the sharing of articles to colleagues at the same university; very few permit sharing with non-authorized users, such as individuals at other universities. Instead, you can send a link to the article, or provide the citation.

If the article you are e-mailing has been scanned from a print version of the work, it may be covered under the fair dealing exception, which permits copying for the purposes of research and private study. The copying must be limited to a short excerpt, which is defined as 10% or less of the original work, or a single article or chapter.

Can I use content from a YouTube video in my presentation?

Generally, it is permissible to include a link to a YouTube video, although it is important to make sure that the video you are linking to does not include infringing content. Many of the videos found on sites like YouTube have not necessarily been placed there with the permission of the copyright owner. If there are indications that this is the case, then you should avoid linking to the video.

If you wish to copy parts of a YouTube video, permission should be obtained from the copyright owner. A short excerpt (less than 10%) may be permitted under the fair dealing exception. It may also be possible to copy a YouTube video under an exception in the Act which permits the use of publicly available Internet materials for educational purposes, provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and there is no clearly visible notice on the original web site prohibiting such use.

For more detail on permitted uses of YouTube videos, see YouTube’s Terms of Service.

Must the images I use in my assignment be public domain or Creative Commons licensed? Does it make a difference if my assignment is in print form or electronic?

The fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act permits copying for research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, parody and satire, and therefore would usually permit a student to use images or other small portions of copyrighted works in an assignment without needing to seek permission. However, the Act specifies that the source of the image must be clearly cited. The fair dealing exception is technologically neutral, so it does not matter whether the assignment is in paper or electronic form.

There are also many web sites where royalty-free, public domain, or Creative Commons-licensed images can be obtained; these images can be used without permission provided the source is attributed.

Does the university own the copyright on a graduate student’s research?

Students always hold copyright to their work when they write something as part of their program of studies. This includes term papers, theses and dissertations, etc. When someone produces something in the context of a job they are hired to do, however, copyright usually belongs to the employer. If hired as part of a research project, the student will need to determine who holds copyright to any work produced by the team; this may be determined by a contract signed upon accepting the position. For more information, please contact Pascal Lupien, Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communication Librarian: lib.research@uoguelph.ca.

I am a graduate student who has co-written a journal article with a faculty member. The faculty member transferred copyright ownership to the journal when the article was published. Can I now re-use some of that work in my thesis?

According to copyright law, every individual who has made a substantial contribution to a work is a copyright holder. The law does not grant special privileges to faculty members in cases where they have co-written a paper with a student. Copyright may be signed over to a publisher, but one co-author cannot sign over the copyright of another. If you have not individually signed over your copyright, then you still retain all of your rights as an author, regardless of whether or not a co-author has signed away his or her rights. In such a scenario, you would be able to continue to use your work as you wish.

This may not be the case, however, if you have been hired by the faculty member as a research assistant or as part of a research team. If hired as part of a research project, the student will need to determine who holds copyright to any work produced by the team; this may be determined by a contract signed upon accepting the position. For more information, please contact Pascal Lupien, Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communication Librarian: lib.research@uoguelph.ca.

Is it permissible to make a copy in an alternate format for a student with a disability?

The Copyright Act contains an exception which permits the making of a copy in an alternate format for the benefit of a person with a perceptual disability, provided the work is not already commercially available in the format required. Note that large print books and cinematographic works are excluded from this exception.

Copyright for Researchers

Can I e-mail a PDF of an e-journal article to a fellow student or faculty member at the university? How about to a colleague at another university?

Sending a PDF of an e-journal article to a colleague at the University of Guelph may be permitted, depending on the terms of the license with the e-journal publisher. Usage rights for many of the Library’s e-journals are displayed in the e-journal list on the Library’s web site, or can be obtained by e-mailing fairdealing@uoguelph.ca.

However, license terms normally restrict the sharing of articles to colleagues at the same university; very few permit sharing with non-authorized users, such as individuals at other universities. Instead, you can send a link to the article, or provide the citation.

If the article you are e-mailing has been scanned from a print version of the work, it may be covered under the fair dealing exception, which permits copying for the purposes of research and private study. The copying must be limited to a short excerpt, which is defined as 10% or less of the original work, or a single article or chapter.

Can my colleagues and I create a database of relevant journal articles to be shared across institutions?

The Library’s licenses with e-journal publishers generally do not permit the sharing of articles with non-authorized users, such as colleagues at other institutions. Many licenses also specifically prohibit the creation of databases using their content. Instead, consider including links to the articles, or provide the article citations.

Copyright for Authors and Creators

Can I put an article or book chapter up on CourseLink if I’m the author of it?

If the work is unpublished, you are the copyright owner and can choose to use the work as you like. However, if the work has been published, you may have signed the rights over to the publisher. You will need to check your contract with the publisher to determine how you may (or may not) be permitted to use the work. It may be necessary to obtain permission from the publisher in order to post the chapter or article on CourseLink. It may also be possible to post it using the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act.

Does the university own the copyright on a graduate student’s research?

Students always hold copyright to their work when they write something as part of their program of studies. This includes term papers, theses and dissertations, etc. When someone produces something in the context of a job they are hired to do, however, copyright usually belongs to the employer. If hired as part of a research project, the student will need to determine who holds copyright to any work produced by the team; this may be determined by a contract signed upon accepting the position. For more information, please contact Pascal Lupien, Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communication Librarian: lib.research@uoguelph.ca.

I am a graduate student who has co-written a journal article with a faculty member. The faculty member transferred copyright ownership to the journal when the article was published. Can I now re-use some of that work in my thesis?

According to copyright law, every individual who has made a substantial contribution to a work is a copyright holder. The law does not grant special privileges to faculty members in cases where they have co-written a paper with a student. Copyright may be signed over to a publisher, but one co-author cannot sign over the copyright of another. If you have not individually signed over your copyright, then you still retain all of your rights as an author, regardless of whether or not a co-author has signed away his or her rights. In such a scenario, you would be able to continue to use your work as you wish.

This may not be the case, however, if you have been hired by the faculty member as a research assistant or as part of a research team. If hired as part of a research project, the student will need to determine who holds copyright to any work produced by the team; this may be determined by a contract signed upon accepting the position. For more information, please contact Pascal Lupien, Research Enterprise and Scholarly Communication Librarian: lib.research@uoguelph.ca.

Copyright for Books, Articles and other Text-based materials

Can I hand out photocopied materials to students in my class?

Short excerpts from books, journals, newspapers, and other copyrighted works, may be copied and distributed to students without permission under the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act. A short excerpt is defined as 10% or less of the copyrighted work, or one chapter. Copying of longer excerpts may require the permission of the copyright owner. If you need to obtain permission, send your request to fairdealing@uoguelph.ca, and permission will be sought on your behalf.

Alternatively, you could use electronic reserve to provide students with access to the required content, as all reserve content is copyright-cleared. Requests to place readings on reserve may be submitted through the Ares Course Reserves system.

If your photocopies are from a library licensed e-journal or e-book, you might instead link directly to the content from CourseLink (D2L). Some e-journal licenses also permit the distribution of print copies of individual articles to students; e-mail fairdealing@uoguelph.ca for more information, or to obtain durable links to e-journal and e-book content.

Copies of material found on the Internet may also be copied for students for educational purposes, provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and that there is no clearly visible notice on the original web site prohibiting such use.

I have included figures from books and articles in my lecture notes. Is that permitted?

Using figures and images from copyrighted sources in lecture notes that you are displaying to students in a classroom setting does not require permission, as it is allowable under one of the educational exceptions in the Copyright Act.

Also, the fair dealing exception permits the posting of short excerpts, which would include figures and illustrations contained in other works, on on a course management system such as CourseLink. You can therefore include figures and illustrations in lecture notes posted on CourseLink provided you are not copying more than 10% of a single work.

If the figures are from e-journal articles or e-books, then the license with the e-journal publisher may permit posting in a course management system (CMS); e-mail fairdealing@uoguelph.ca for more information, or use the “Click below for details on permitted uses” link displayed in the library’s e-journal “Get it” menus.

It is also possible to use figures and illustrations from the Internet provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and that there is no clearly visible notice on the original web site prohibiting such use.

Can I scan a chapter of a book and post it on CourseLink for my students to read?

Like photocopying, the scanning of short excerpts of copyrighted content to distribute to students is permitted under the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act. A short excerpt is defined as 10% or less of the copyrighted work, or one chapter. Copying of longer excerpts may require the permission of the copyright owner. Consider using the Ares Course Reserves system to provide students with electronic reserve access to the required content. All reserve content is copyright-cleared, and can be linked to directly via CourseLink or a course web site.

Can I put a PDF of an article from a library e-journal on CourseLink?

Some electronic journal licenses do permit PDFs of articles to be posted in course management systems or on password-protected course web sites. However, linking directly to the article in question is preferable. E-mail fairdealing@uoguelph.ca for more information about e-journal licenses, or to obtain durable links to e-journal and e-book content. You can also find this information by using the “Click below for details on permitted uses” link displayed in the library’s e-journal “Get it” menus.

Can I put an article or book chapter up on CourseLink if I’m the author of it?

If a the work is unpublished, you are the copyright owner and can choose to use the work as you like. However, if the work has been published, you may have signed the rights over to the publisher. You will need to check your contract with the publisher to determine how you may (or may not) be permitted to use the work. It may be necessary to obtain permission from the publisher in order to post the chapter or article on CourseLink. It may also be possible to post it using the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act.

Copyright and Images

Our department wants to post photos of a recent university event on our web site. Do we need to obtain permission from the speakers at the event to use photos they appear in?

Yes, if the individual is the subject of the photo, or is featured prominently in the photo, it is necessary to obtain his/her permission in order to use the image on a web site or include it in a published or publicly circulated work such as a departmental newsletter or brochure. However, if the individual is in the background of the photograph, or is not the primary subject of the photograph, you do not require his/her permission to use the photo.

It is a good idea when planning an event, to have event participants sign a waiver or permission form ahead of time, to ensure that you have their authorization to use photos, videos, or audio recordings of their participation in the event, as well as the content of any presentation or other works they may provide at the event.

Is it sufficient just to cite the images I use in my PowerPoint lecture notes, or do I need to obtain permission?

One of the exceptions in the Copyright Act permits copies to be made for display in a class on the premises of an educational institution. It is therefore permissible to use copyrighted content as part of an in-class lecture. However, the Act does specify that the work must not be commercially available in a form appropriate for such use, such as a collection of lecture overheads made available for purchase by a textbook publisher.

Also, the fair dealing exception permits the posting of short excerpts, which would include images, figures and illustrations contained in other works, on a course management system such as CourseLink. You can therefore include images from such sources in lecture notes posted on CourseLink, provided they do not constitute more than 10% of the work they are copied from.

It is also possible to use images from the Internet provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and that there is no clearly visible notice on the original web site prohibiting such use.

In all cases, it is always good practice to cite your source when reproducing content from copyrighted works.

Must the images I use in my assignment be public domain or Creative Commons licensed? Does it make a difference if my assignment is in print form or electronic?

The fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act permits copying for research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, parody, and satire, and therefore would usually permit a student to use images or other portions of copyrighted works in an assignment without needing to seek permission. However, the Act specifies that the source of the image must be clearly cited. The fair dealing exception is technologically neutral, so it does not matter whether the assignment is in paper or electronic form.

There are also many web sites where royalty-free, public domain, or Creative Commons-licensed images can be obtained; these images can be used without permission provided the source is attributed.

Are there any copyright restrictions on using clip art from Microsoft Office programs?

Using clip art for non-commercial purposes does not require permission, and it is also generally accepted that attribution is not required. However, you may want to cite the source of the clipart you use in order to verify that you have permission to use it. If you plan to use the clipart for commercial purposes, permission must be obtained. Consult the Microsoft End User agreement, or relevant license agreement for the software you are using.

Copyright and Media

Can I show a movie or documentary in the classroom?

Public performance licences are no longer required for the showing of films and videos in class for the purpose of education or training. It is also possible to show a copy of a news broadcast or news commentary program in class. Copies of other types of TV broadcasts require that records be kept and royalties paid for classroom showings.

For more information, check with the Library’s Media Specialist at extension 52313 or e- mail kmoon@uoguelph.ca.

Can I use content from a YouTube video in my presentation?

Generally, it is permissible to include a link to a YouTube video, although it is important to make sure that the video you are linking to does not include infringing content. Many of the videos found on sites like YouTube have not necessarily been placed there with the permission of the copyright owner. If there are indications that this is the case, then you should avoid linking to the video.

If you wish to copy parts of a YouTube video, permission should be obtained from the copyright owner. A short excerpt (less than 10%) may be permitted under the fair dealing exception. It may also be possible to copy a YouTube video under an exception in the Act which permits the use of publicly available Internet materials for educational purposes, provided the source is cited, the original is not protected by a digital lock, the original is not an infringing copy, and there is no clearly visible notice on the original web site prohibiting such use.

For more information on permitted uses of YouTube videos, see YouTube’s Terms of Service.