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Copyright for Faculty and Staff

Introduction to Copyright

Governed by the Copyright Act of Canada, copyright gives the creator of an original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work the exclusive rights to reproduce, perform, translate, publish, distribute and sell the work. Copyright applies automatically when a work is in a tangible format (registration is not necessary).

Copyright ownership belongs to the creator of a work unless the creator assigns it to someone else. For example, some publishers will ask authors to sign over their copyright in a publishing contract.

In Canada, a work enters into public domain when its copyright expires 50 years after the death of the creator. It can then be freely copied and distributed. For performances and sound recordings, copyright expires 70 years after the release or publication date.  

Copyright does not protect ideas and facts. For example, statistics can be copied without permission. However, copyright may apply in the way ideas and data are presented such as a table displaying statistics. 

Copyright and plagiarism are not synonymous although there is an overlap between the two issues depending on the situation.

Copyright Infringement Plagiarism Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism

Copy the entire book but provide credit to the author

Copy a paragraph from a book in your essay without attribution

Copy the entire book and pretend you wrote it

Re-make a novel into a play for profit without obtaining permission although attribution is provided Re-make a novel into a fan-fiction mash up (allowed under the Non-Commercial User Generated Content exception of the Copyright Act) without attribution  Re-make a novel into a play for profit without attribution nor permission 

Copyright law was created by the British Parliament to encourage creativity and innovation by giving creators incentives to produce and share their works for the public interest. Copyright is a balance of creator rights and user rights. 

The Copyright Act of Canada includes exceptions for users to be able to use copyrighted works without permission from copyright owners. Fair dealing is an important exception available to all Canadians to use copyrighted works for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, or news reporting. There are also exceptions available to non-profit educational institutions, libraries, archives, museums, and consumers.

For more information on fair dealing and educational exceptions, visit the FAQs section.  

Added to the Canadian Copyright Act in 2012, the non-commercial user-generated content exception is also known as the "mashup" provision. It allows people to use copyrighted content to create a new work and is designed to support the growth of user-generated content online. For example, a TikTok video with music playing in the background, a fanfiction story shared online, or a mash-up illustration on DeviantArt.  

There are some conditions to use this provision: 

  • The use must be for a non-commercial purpose;
  • The copyrighted content used should be legally obtained (not an infringing copy);
  • The use should not negatively affect the copyrighted material (e.g., its market value); and 
  • The copyrighted content should be credited 

The Copyright Act permits professors and students to copy and use publicly accessible materials such as images on the Web for educational use if: 

  • The material was legally posted by the copyright owner or with their consent (or there are no reasonable grounds to believe it is an infringing copy); 
  • There is no "clearly visible notice" on the website prohibiting users from educational use of the content (not just a general copyright or "All Rights Reserved" statement); and
  • The material is not protected by a digital lock

If all conditions are met, the material may be copied as long as the source and creator, if mentioned, are cited.

 Try searching for public domain and Creative Commons licensed images with less restrictions.  

A digital lock is also called technological protection measure (TPM) or digital rights management (DRM), and it is basically any technology that controls or restricts access to or copying of a work.

Section 41 of the Copyright Act prohibits breaking or circumventing digital locks for the use of copyrighted works, even in a situation where the use is allowed under an exception such as fair dealing.

Examples of a digital lock:

  • Digital rights management (DRM) of an e-book that restricts the number of pages you can print or copy
  • Encryption that disables the option to copy on a web-based image
  • Technology on a streaming video that restricts which country it can be viewed in