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Copyright at MRU

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, why don't we cite it?question-mark-32 by quimono via Pixabay licensed under Pixabay License.

I'm sure you've all heard the old adage, "a picture is worth 1,000 words." However, few of us take it to heart. If we were to incorporate 1,000 of someone else's words in anything we produced, we would always cite it for ethical and legal reasons. But in today's sharing-based online world, we cut, paste, download, and repost other people's images (which include photos, clip-art, maps, diagrams, charts, and basically anything else) without even thinking about it.

But we should.

If we consider someone else's image to be worthy of incorporating into our own work, then it deserves recognition in the form of citation and considerations around legality (i.e. copyright). Students, faculty, and staff use images in an increasing number of assignments, research papers, presentations, portfolios, websites, etc., but few consider the ethical and legal ramifications of doing so. 

In today's highly litigious world, we are seeing a rise in claims of copyright infringement in the use of other people's work, so if you're unsure whether you can or should use someone else's work in your own, contact the Copyright Advisor or attend a workshop (there are memes!).

The most important thing to remember is that every time you use an image it must be cited; but also keep in mind that simply citing someone else's work does not give you the legal right to use it!

And if you're confused why you need to cite images in the public domain, consider this: would you quote a single line from Shakespeare without giving him due credit?

Want to know more? Register for one of my copyright workshops here.

News, workshops, and events

Winter, 2020

Upcoming Copyright Workshops

Practical Copyright for Instruction:

This introductory workshop covers some of the basic issues instructors face when determining how copyright applies to various types of works in face-to-face and digital classroom environments. Join Alana Zanbilowicz, MRU’s Copyright Advisor as she examines some of the practical applications of copyright in your everyday work.

  ⇒ Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 10 am:

  ⇒ Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 1 pm:​

Teaching with Movies and Other Media:

It’s not always clear how and where you can use films and other media in class, on Blackboard, or distributed to your students and how your User Rights under the Copyright Act apply. Join Alana Zanbilowicz, MRU’s Copyright Advisor as she examines:

  • Copyright basics
  • Your user rights under the Copyright Act
  • How to source copyright friendly movies and videos
  • Where, when and how to incorporate these resources in your teaching

  ⇒ Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 10 am:

  ⇒ Thursday, January 30, 2020 at 1 pm:

Using Electronic Images:

Knowing how to incorporate electronic images in your course materials in a copyright friendly way can be confusing. Join Copyright Advisor Alana Zanbilowicz in a workshop that will answer your questions. In this session you will explore:

  • Copyright basics
  • Your user rights under the Copyright Act
  • How to source copyright friendly electronic images
  • Where, when and how to incorporate these images in your teaching

  ⇒ Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 10 am:

  ⇒ Wednesday, February 5, 2020 at 1 pm:

Copyright for Students:

Students need to understand how copyright affect them in their school work and how they can rely on their user rights to prepare assignments. In this workshop, Alana Zanbilowicz, MRU Copyright Advisor, will take students through a broad overview of their rights and obligations under the Copyright Act.

  ⇒ Thursday, February 13, 2020 at 10 am:

  ⇒ Thursday, February 13, 2020 at 1 pm:

Custom Copyright Workshops or in-Class Presentations:

The Copyright Advisor is also pleased to host custom workshops for interested groups, or speak to your class about copyright issues relevant to the course subject matter.  Please give the Copyright Advisor as much time as possible to prepare for these events.


January, 2018

Students Posting Instructors' Copyrighted Materials to Third Party Websites

Adrian Sheppard, Director of the University of Alberta's Copyright Office has created a great piece on the issue of students posting instructors' materials on third party websites such as Course Hero. You can read more here

September, 2017

Access Copyright v York University - Update

York University filed its appeal in the Access v York litigation with the Federal Court on Friday, September 22, 2017. More will be posted following receipt and review of all pleadings.

September, 2017

Fair Dealing Myths and Facts

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries has released its Fair Dealing Myths and Facts information sheet, which offers a great breakdown of misinformation around fair dealing. The French language version is available here.

September, 2017

Mount Royal University's Official Statement on Access Copyright v York University

On July 12, the Federal Court released its judgement in the first phase of the Access Copyright v York University litigation.

The Court declared that certain portions of copying by York's employees were subject to the interim tariff issued by the Copyright Board. The Court further determined that this copying did not fall within the "fair dealing" exception established by the Copyright Act.

York has been ordered to pay royalties for the 2011-2013 time frame. In addition, the Court found that York's "Fair Dealing Guidelines" were neither fair in their terms nor in their application.

It should be noted that this decision is very fact-specific and is binding only on the parties to the litigation, and not on other academic institutions.

Mount Royal University continues to review this decision and is following further developments, including York University's announcement that it will appeal this decision.

Our initial analysis indicates that the decision is inconsistent with prior Supreme Court of Canada legal precedents.

Although various course pack producers, publishers and other industry players have suggested that this decision effectively overrules the Copyright Act’s "fair dealing" exception, in fact, the decision does not prevent “fair dealing” of copyrighted material in appropriate circumstances.

The Supreme Court of Canada has, in a number of cases, asserted that the Copyright Act's "fair dealing" exception establishes critical "user rights" for individuals wanting to use copyrighted works. This Federal Court decision in favour of Access Copyright has neither removed nor diminished these statutory user rights.

As Mount Royal University was not a party to this litigation, it is not subject to the Federal Court's ruling. All faculty and staff should continue to follow our Fair Dealing Guidelines.

The University continues to monitor the evolution of this case and will provide updates as applicable.

Services and contacts

  • Custom Copyright Workshops and Classroom Presentations: The Copyright Advisor is happy to create customized workshops for departments with a view to instruction and course design at MRU or come and speak to classes about copyright issues relevant to course content. It is greatly appreciated if you can provide as much lead time as possible.
  • Library Resources: For information on linking to or reproducing MRU Library's electronic materials, ordering new library materials, placing items on reserve, or for specific subject guides, please contact your Subject Librarian.
  • Blackboard: For assistance with your BlackBoard site, please contact the Academic Development Center ("ADC").
  • Course Packs: For information on course packs (including deadlines), please contact the Bookstore.
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Legal Notice: The advice, information, and opinions on this LibGuide are not intended to constitute nor do they replace legal advice and they do not create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult with a lawyer for legal matters.