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Copyright Guide: Copyright FAQs

Copyright FAQs

Note: This information is meant to serve as a guideline and is not intended to be legal advice. 

What is copyright? What does it do?
Copyright protects works (e.g. books, photographs, films) 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 (e.g. educational use), in an attempt to balance the rights of creators and users. In Canada, copyright is governed by the Copyright Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42).

Can you copyright an idea?  What can be copyrighted?
Neither an idea nor facts can be copyrighted; only the expression of an idea or fact can be copyrighted. The expression of an idea is a work, and for a work to be copyrighted it must be fixed (or published) either as a physical object or a digital one.  This covers literary works, dramatic works, artistic works, music, sound recordings, performer's performances and communication signals (including the Internet).

How long does copyright last?
In most cases copyright lasts for 50 years past the death of the creator, at which time the copyright is no longer held by their estate, and the work shifts into the public domain.

What is "Public Domain?"
Works in the public domain are not protected by any sort of intellectual property rights.  Generally, the work by a creator who has been deceased for 50 years or more goes in to the public domain. Creators may also publicly and expressly state that specific works of theirs are in the public domain  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" or complete copyright protection and the public domain. For more information see the Creative Commons section of this guide.

What is "Open Access?"
Open Access is a growing movement in the scholarly community.  As a publishing initiative, it provides free availability of scholarly publications, including peer-reviewed material.  An excellent overview of Open Access is available from the MSVU Open Access Guide.

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, parody, satire, 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 some of the high level principles of fair dealing into practical rules applicable to the university setting. It outlines some of the user rights under the fair dealing exceptions that do not infringe copyright.

Does the fair dealing policy restrict the use of an original work or other publication?
No. The policy only addresses the making of paper or digital copies.

Does the fair dealing policy permit the making of multiple copies to hand out to students?
Yes.  A faculty member or his or her proxy may make copies of a work that meets the definition of a short excerpt found in the Fair Dealing Policy to distribute as a handout to students in his or her class. See: Application of the Fair Dealing Policy for Universities to Teaching and Research by University Faculty, CAUT Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material February, 2013, and the Alberta (Education) vs Acess Copyright Supreme Court Decision.

Can I still provide course packs for my students?
Yes, as long as there is no profit being made from the sale of the Course Packs, and that all other requirements of the Fair Dealing Policy are followed in respect to making lawful copies of excerpts from copyright-protected works. The requirements would include only using short excerpts as defined in the Fair Dealing Policy, obtaining transactional permission to copy excerpts likely to exceed the limits of fair dealing, and copying materials for which the university has a license with the publisher or aggregator (under the terms and conditions of the license). There are also requirements for recording, providing a copyright compliance notice with the course pack, and processes for producing and selling the course packs. See: Application of the Fair Dealing Policy for Universities to the Production and Sale of Course Packs.

Can I place a required textbook on library reserve?  

Can I place copies of readings on library reserve?
Yes, you may place copies of required, supplemental, and/or optional readings on reserve if one of the following applies to the copies:
1) they meet the definition of a short excerpt as laid out in the Fair Dealing Policy;
2) you have obtained permission and made arrangements with the rights holder of a  reading to place a copy on reserve for your class if the copy exceeds the limits of a short excerpt as defined in the Fair Dealing Policy; or
3) the works you would like to make copies of are in the public domain.

Alternatively, or additionally, you may place the original books / journals which contain the readings for your students on reserve.  Students are legally able to make copies for their own use from the original source as long as they follow  fair dealing copying guidelines. 

What if the Library does not have a copy of the book(s) I'd like to place on reserve?
The Library collection supports the curriculum and student and faculty research. Please contact Rebecca Young if you would like to request material for purchase.  There may also be online versions of books available which assist in making readings available to your students; please check with the library for more information. 

Can I obtain my own permissions?
Yes, absolutely.   Permissions are normally limited to one term of use unless otherwise stipulated by the copyright owner.  For assistance in obtaining your own permissions, see the Seeking Permissions portion of this guide.

What are some other options for readings?
Faculty and instructors are encouraged to explore alternate sources for providing readings. The following are some possible alternatives:

• Create online reading lists which incorporate web links or online articles licensed by NSCAD. If you would like assistance in adding digital material to your reading list using our subscriptions, or to learn more about using NSCAD’s course management system Campus Guides, please contact  Rebecca Young. Please keep in mind that auditing (Extended Studies) students are not able to access electronic reserve materials from off campus as they are not given a NSCAD email account.
• Use reading materials in the public domain
• Incorporate readings licensed through a Creative Commons license
Seek permission directly from the rights holder

Can I upload a PDF of a journal article or other copyright-protected work to Campus Guides?  
You can only do this in instances where you have confirmed that the source in question grants you the rights to do so. Even in instances when uploading a PDF is permissible, the content must be posted in a password-protected environment that is only accessible to students registered in your course. Campus Guides has a password protection option located under Guide Information [cog icon under the search box] > Access Restrictions > Passwords.

Can I provide my students with a link to an electronic journal article or e-book? 
Yes.  The Library can assist you with the creation of properly-functioning links, or see the Links in Campus Guide section of this guide.  

Can a copy be made where it is prohibited by the fair dealing policy, but is expressly permitted under an agreement with the publisher?
Yes. However, the reverse may not be true. If a copy can be made under the fair dealing policy, but is prohibited under an agreement with the publisher, it is probably safer at this time to assume the provisions of the agreement apply and making the copy is prohibited. It is currently accepted that the terms of an agreement with a publisher  trump the fair dealing policy.

Can I scan an item and project it onto a screen in class, including copyrighted material such as images?
Yes, this is allowed under the exceptions for educational institutions in the Copyright Act:

Reproduction for instruction

29.4 (1) It is not an infringement of copyright for an educational institution or a person acting under its authority for the purposes of education or training on its premises to reproduce a work, or do any other necessary act, in order to display it.

Can I screen DVDs and videos in class?
Yes,  as per section 29.5 of the Copyright Act, you can screen (i.e. perform, not copy) audiovisual works in class for educational purposes provided that the DVD or video was legally obtained, is not an infringing copy, no profit is made, a digital lock is not circumvented in order to view the work, and the audience is primarily students, other instructors, or staff responsible for curriculum development.

Can I show a YouTube video in class?
Yes, you may link to a YouTube video and show it in a classroom setting as this does not constitute making a copy. However, permission is required if the user downloads a copy of a video for viewing, posting or distribution.  It is a faculty member's responsibility to ensure the legitimacy of a YouTube video before showing it in the classroom.  YouTube videos and videos from other sources online may contain content that infringes copyright.  It's best to search for the official version of a video which was uploaded by the content creator, or that was created using a Creative Commons License, which explicitly allows for public use and distribution under certain conditions set by the creator.

Can I copy portions of materials for the purpose of creating tests and examinations?
Yes, this is allowed under the exceptions for educational institutions in the Copyright Act:

Reproduction for examinations, etc.

29.4 (2) It is not an infringement of copyright for an educational institution or a person acting under its authority to

(a) reproduce, translate or perform in public on the premises of the educational institution, or

(b) communicate by telecommunication to the public situated on the premises of the educational institution a work or other subject-matter as required for a test or examination.

Can I email copies of articles or digital files downloaded from a database like JSTOR, etc.?
Maybe, if it is for educational purposes and it is a short excerpt from a work. However, doing so may be subject to the terms and conditions of the license agreement between the University and the database provider(s) or publisher.  Best practice would be to email a link to the article.

Can I print materials from the Internet to hand out to my students in class?
Yes, if the materials are not protected by a digital lock, if there is no clearly visible notice (not just a copyright symbol) on the website or the work itself expressly prohibiting such use, or if you have obtained permission from the copyright holder or they have  given permission for use under either a Creative Commons license or developed them as Open Educational Resources (See the Creative Commons & Open Educational Resources sections of the Copyright Subject Guide for details). Attribution must be given, and you must be sure that work you are using is not violating the copyright holder's rights. An alternative to printing for your class is to post a link in an email, on a syllabus, or on a Campus Guide for your students to access.

Can I make copies of all or part of a book that is no longer in print, but where the author has not been dead for 50 years or has otherwise assigned copyright?
Permission would need to be sought from the publisher.


Michael Geist's Unofficial Opting Out of the Tariff FAQs

What does opting out of the tariff mean for you? A fairly comprehensive FAQ document on opting out of the tariff has been written by Dr. Michael Geist, Law professor at the University of Ottawa and Canada Research Chair in Internet and Ecommerce Law.