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Copyright for Faculty and Staff

What is fair dealing?

Governed by the Canadian Copyright Act, fair dealing allows people to copy and use copyright-protected materials without permission nor payment under two requirements: 

  1. The use is for an allowed purpose - Research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, or news reporting
  2. The use must be “fair" which is evaluated by 6 factors - Purpose, character of use, amount copied, alternatives to copying, nature of the original work, and effect on the original work.
  1. Purpose of use, including whether it is for research, private study, education, criticism, review, parody, satire or news reporting. Research for a commercial use is likely less fair than research for an educational use. 
  2. Character of use - How is the work being used? Is the work being shared only with the intended audience or widely distributed on the Internet? If it is the former, the use is likely fair.    
  3. Amount copied - The amount is evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively. If a short excerpt is purposefully copied for the allowed use (e.g., a short clip to critique a film), it is likely to be fair. 
  4. Alternatives to copying - Is there a suitable alternative to copying the work (e.g., a public domain source)? If yes, the use is less likely to be fair. 
  5. Nature of the original work, including whether it is published or unpublished. If the material is privately held, it is less likely to be fair unless making the content available to the public serves a societal interest. 
  6. Effect on the work - Is the copy likely to compete with the market of the original work? If yes, the use is less likely to be fair.

A use does not need to satisfy every one of these factors in order to be fair, and no one factor is determinative by itself. For example, if a use may negatively impact the commercial value of a work, it does not automatically mean the use is not fair dealing since other factors need to be considered. Courts generally look at the factors as a whole to determine if, on balance, a use is fair dealing.

Fair dealing guidelines for educational use

The following information is based on guidelines created by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) to help faculty apply fair dealing in their day-to-day teaching activities. Please note that these guidelines generally apply to print sources. For a licensed online material (e.g., from a library database), the safest bet is to link to it since the licence may not permit distribution of downloaded content. 

  • Faculty may copy a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work to share with students in a course
  • A short excerpt is generally interpreted as 10% or less of a work, one chapter from a book, or a single article from a periodical
  • Distribution should be limited to students in a course (e.g., in SLATE or as class handouts)
  • It is not permissible to copy multiple short excerpts from the same source with the intention of copying most or all of the work (e.g., copy 10% of a work for week 1 of the course and another 10% from the same source for week 2) 
  • The source should be cited 

If what you need to copy exceeds the fair dealing guidelines, please contact Sam Cheng, Open Education and Copyright Librarian (copyright@sheridancollege.ca), for assistance on a complete fair dealing evaluation or on requesting permission.