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Copyright Guide for Students

Copyright FAQ

What is copyright? What does it do?
In Canada, copyright is governed by the Copyright Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42) which regulates the use and reproduction of intellectual and artistic creations. Copyright protects works from being copied, performed or distributed without the permission of the copyright holder, usually the author or the creator of the work, and provides exceptions for special circumstances.

How long does copyright last?
Prior to December 30, 2022 Canadian copyright lasted for 50 years past the death of the creator, at which time the copyright normally shifts into the public domain. Bill C-19 extended the term of copyright protection from 50 to 70 years after the life of the author. Works that were in the public domain as of December 30, 2022 are not affected by this change.

What is "Public Domain?"
Works enter the public domain when their creator has been deceased for 50 years. These works can be used freely by anyone for any purpose without paying royalties or getting permission to do so.

What is "Creative Commons?"
Creative Commons is a form of licensing that bridges the gap between "all rights reserved" copyright and the public domain. For more information see the Creative Commons section of this guide.

What is "Open Access?"
Open Access is a movement within the scholarly community that encourages unfettered access to the results of scholarly research. As a publishing initiative, it provides free availability of scholarly publications, including peer-reviewed material. 

What is "Fair Dealing?"
The Canadian Copyright Act defines fair dealing as the rights of an individual to use material with attribution for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review or news reporting. For more information see the Fair Dealing section of this guide.

What is the purpose of the fair dealing policy?
The purpose of the policy is to translate the principles of fair dealing into practical rules that make sense in a university setting. It outlines some of the user rights that exist under the fair dealing exceptions.

What is a "digital lock"?

A "digital lock" is a technology that prevents users from opening or copying a work. An example of a digital lock is encryption software or a password. The Copyright Act now makes it illegal to remove digital locks.

Can I use an image found in another work for my thesis?

It often depends on where the image originated from. You may be able to use the image under the Fair Dealing exception in the Copyright Act. In other circumstances you may need to seek permission from the copyright holder. See the Theses tab for more details.

Can I print off a copy of an article from the library's databases for personal studying?

Yes. Students can print single articles for their own educational purposes from the library's databases.

 Can I copy a whole book?

No, you may not make a copy of an entire copyright protected work, such as a play or novel, that was published as a volume on its own; you may not make a copy of an entire textbook.

Can I use any image found in Google for a presentation without attribution?

No. Full attribution must always be given to any work you reference in your own work. Most single images can be used for educational purposes, but not always. Full credit must be given to the author of the work whenever referenced. Google does now allow you to search for materials by license type.

Can I show a downloaded movie in class? I'm not sure where the file originated from.

Illegal copies of works, including movies, can not be used in classrooms. Legitimately purchased copies may be used for educational purposes in a classroom setting.

I used a short quote from a book in my essay. It is under 10% of the original work. Can I use this quote without citing the original work it was published in?

No. Full attribution must always be given to any work you reference in your own work.


Please note: This guide does not provide legal advice. It is intented to give guidance about acceptable use of copyright protected materials.