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Copyright for Students


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Sam Cheng
FAAD & Copyright Education

Top © Myths & Facts

Myth #1 - If the material is posted on the Web, it is in the public domain - free to copy and use.

Fact #1 - Most materials on the Web are protected by copyright, even if they do not have a copyright notice or symbol. 

For educational use, you may use materials on the Web but there are some criteria to follow - see more information on "Materials on the Web." Alternatively, try searching for copyright friendly resources. 

Myth #2 - I can copy a work if I provide credit to the creator or link back to the original material.

Fact #2 - Giving credit to the creator and original work can help you avoid plagiarism but citation does not always protect you from copyright infringement - see the section on "What is Copyright." There is more to consider for 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 Student FAQs section for information on using other types of copyrighted works

Myth #3 - I can use a free copy of a textbook on the Web since it is in the "public domain." 

Fact #3 - Textbooks posted online in their entirety are likely illegal copies, unless a Creative Commons licence is indicated on the material.

It is the responsibility of a student to purchase textbooks required for their courses. However, you may try to: 

  • Look for used or rental copies of textbooks, which are less expensive, at the Campus Bookstore.
  • Do a title search in Sheridan Library's Summon to see if we have a particular textbook. The Library has limited copies of some textbooks available for short-term (3-hour) loan. 

Myth #4 - Since my professor shared their slides in SLATE, it's okay to share the material with other students on course-sharing websites such as Course Hero or OneClass. 

Fact #4 - Course materials such as lecture slides and teaching notes are provided to students for their own educational use. In most cases, it is a copyright infringement to share these materials on course-sharing websites - visit the section on Course-Sharing Websites for more information. 

Also, you would be violating Sheridan's Academic Integrity Policy if you share exams online that can help other students to cheat. 

Myth #5 - Google Images Search allows you to find images in the "public domain."

Fact #5 - Most images found through Google Images are protected by copyright.

Check out this handout on "How to Search for Copyright Friendly Images in Google"  Also, visit the Finding Images guide for a list of websites where you can find public domain and Creative Commons licensed images.