Skip to Main Content

Copyright for Students


Profile Photo
Sam Cheng
FAAD & Copyright Education

Fair Dealing

What is fair dealing?

Under the Copyright Act of Canada, fair dealing permits people to copy and use copyrighted work for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, or news reporting. 

Here are some of the common educational activities supported by fair dealing: 

  • Downloading an article to read and cite from for a research essay 
  • Sharing a PDF of a book chapter with other students for a team project 
  • Using an online diagram for the purpose of review in a presentation  
  • Including an audio clip as an excerpt in a public history assignment 
  • Copying an advertisement for the purpose of critique in a thesis 
  • Adapting code to use in a capstone project 

You should only copy a short excerpt of a work or what is necessary to achieve your educational or fair dealing purpose. Under the fair dealing guidelines adopted by Sheridan, a short excerpt generally means 10% or less of a work. If what you want to do is not supported by the copyright law, you should obtain permission from the copyright owner, who is usually the creator of a work.

Remember to cite the source whenever you are copying someone else's work! Refer to Sheridan Library's Citation Guides on APA, MLA, etc., for more information.     

If you have a question about fair dealing, feel free to contact Sam Cheng, Sheridan's Open Education and Copyright Librarian (, for help.

Governed by the Copyright Act of Canada, fair dealing allows people to copy and use copyright-protected material 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 the following 6 factors:

  • 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. 
  • 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.    
  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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 public serves a societal interest. 
  • 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.