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Copyright for Students


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Sam Cheng
FAAD & Copyright Education


Accessing and using course materials

Yes, you may under some conditions. Based on the fair dealing guidelines, for an educational use, you may copy an entire book chapter or several pages/chapters as long as the total copied is 10% or less. Note that you shouldn't copy one chapter this week, another chapter next week, and so on with the intention of copying the entire or most of the book. 

Refer to the fair dealing section for more information.

Sheridan Library has some textbooks available for short-term loan (3 hours and no renewal). In most cases, we have only one copy or a few copies of a textbook available. Do a title search in Sheridan Library's Summon to see if we have a particular textbook.

Textbooks posted online in their entirety are likely infringing copies. Publishers do not post online copies of the textbooks that they are selling to students through college bookstores and on their websites. 

There is a growing number of e-textbooks made available under a Creative Commons licence or an open access model but they are usually indicated as such on the websites. 

Try to look for used or rental copies of textbooks at the Campus Bookstore. Sheridan Library also has limited copies of some textbooks available for short-term (3-hour) loan. Do a title search in Sheridan Library's Summon to see if we have a particular textbook

Sheridan Library has subscribed to Criterion On-Demand which offers streaming videos of over 1,700 feature films. The Criterion collection can be searched in Summon. Do a title search in Summon to see if a particular film is available in the streaming or DVD format in the library collection. 

More information is available here:

Course materials are provided to students for their own educational use. Students should not share these materials with other people or on the Internet without their professors' permission. In addition to copyright implication, posting course materials to peer-to-peer websites may violate student policies at Sheridan. Please refer to the section on Course-Sharing Websites for more information.

Please check with your professor on this issue. Also, you may need to obtain consent from other students and provide individuals the option to opt out of the recording if their participation will be recorded.

Using copyrighted content in student works

Yes, you may but pay attention to these guidelines:

  • If it is from a print source, follow the fair dealing guidelines - you may generally copy up to 10% of a work but you should use the copy primarily for your study and share it only with your professor and/or other students in the course.   
  • If it is from a library database, link to the material instead of posting the content. Some of the library databases do not permit sharing downloaded content within. 
  • If it is from a website, see the next question and answer. 

 Remember to cite the source if you are able to copy and use it!

There are some conditions for using publicly available materials on the Web for an educational purpose:

  • Check that it is not watermarked or restricted by a paywall or member subscription. If yes, permission to use from the copyright owner is required.
  • Review the terms of use on the site to see if copying for educational use is prohibited. If there is no such restriction, you may copy the content.

Alternatively, try searching for public domain and Creative Commons licensed images that you can copy and use with less restrictions. Here are some resources that can help you: 

Yes, you may but you cannot use the same fair dealing guidelines (copy 10% or less of a work for an educational use) when you share a work more broadly or on the Internet. You would need to use the six fair dealing factors to evaluate copyright compliance. Also, depending on your use and certain conditions, your use may be permitted under the “noncommercial user-generated content exception” or another provision of the Canadian Copyright Act.

If in doubt, remove the copyrighted content from your online/publicly facing version or request permission from the copyright owner to use the material. 

Feel free to contact Sam Cheng, Open Education and Copyright Librarian, if you have a question about including copyrighted content in your own work.

Please refer to the first three questions and answers for guidance.

Check with your professor to see which citation style they want you to use. The Cite It Right guide has information on different citation styles including APA and MLA. 

There is no specific format mentioned in the Canadian Copyright Act but at the minimum, include the author and source information. If it is an Internet source, include the URL or a link back to the work. If it is a Creative Commons licensed material, indicate the licence type in your citation.

Giving credit to the creator and original work can help you avoid plagiarism (passing off someone else's work as your own) but citation does not automatically protect you from copyright infringement. For example, when you copy the entire book but provide credit to the author, it is a copyright violation. On the other hand, when you copy a paragraph from a book in your class essay without attribution, there is no copyright concern but it is academic dishonesty. See the section on "What is Copyright?" for more information.

There is more to copyright compliance: 

  • Refer to the fair dealing guidelines if you need to copy from a print book, journal or magazine. Generally, you may copy up to 10% of a work for educational use. 
  • Consult the FAQs on this page for information on other types of copyrighted works

It depends on whether fair dealing applies in your use. Please refer to the Copyright for Film Students guide for more information.

Documentary Organization of Canada also created a helpful report titled "Copyright and Fair Dealing Guidelines for Documentary Filmmakers" (the report was done in 2010 so it did not include the fair dealing purposes of education, parody, and satire that were added to the Copyright Act in 2012 but most of the information is still relevant).

As per Sheridan’s Intellectual Property (IP) Policy, students generally own copyright to the work they create at Sheridan with some exceptions. If it is a team project, the students involved share copyright to the work. If an industry partner is involved in the project, they usually own copyright to the work which would be outlined in an agreement. 

Please refer the IP Module for Students, created by Sheridan Research Office in collaboration with Office of General Counsel, for more information.

You may use clipart, stock photos and icons from Microsoft Office but it is recommended that you include the citation: “Used with permission from Microsoft.” 

With online pictures located through Microsoft Office, they are mostly Creative Commons licensed and are free to copy and reuse. To locate the citation information, go to the source website – see below.

Copyright friendly resources

You may want to use resources that either have no or less copyright restrictions:

  • Public domain - Copyright has expired so users can freely copy, use and adapt the material (however, crediting the author and source is still recommended). In Canada, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the creator (for sound recordings, it is 70 years after the release or publication date). 
  • Creative Commons - The creator has indicated that the material can be copied and used as long as attribution is provided. This is indicated by a Creative Commons licence symbol or notice. There may be additional restrictions: Non-commercial use, share-alike under the same Creative Commons licence, and/or no derivative work. Be sure to check the licence type to see what restrictions may apply. Refer to the Commons Commons website for more information on the licences available. 

Visit the Finding Images guide for a list of websites where you can find public domain and Creative Commons licensed images.

Also, check out the guide on "How to Search for Copyright Friendly Images in Google"!

Check out these websites (be sure to read the terms of use or copyright statement to see if there are any restrictions):  

  • CC Mixter - A site where people can share the remixes and samples they created under a Creative Commons licence for users to re-use.
  • Musopen - Provides public domain recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.
  • The Mutopia Project - Over 2,024 pieces of music that are free to download, modify, print, copy, distribute, perform, and record. The materials are either in the public domain or licensed under Creative Commons.
  • Petrucci Music Library - Selected scores and recordings that are in the public domain either in Canada or US.
  • Purple Planet Music - Free mp3 downloads for use in YouTube and similar video sites, social media, websites, educational use and films that creators distribute themselves, as long as attribution to Purple Planet Music is provided. There are options to purchase licences for TV/radio broadcasting, theatrical release, and other commercial projects.

Open textbooks are freely accessible on the Web and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Often licensed under Creative Commons, these resources can be copied, re-used and shared with others as long as attribution is provided. In some cases, the material can also be revised and adapted.

Some professors at Sheridan are using open textbooks in their courses. More information is available on the OER guide.