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Mount Royal University's Copyright Office supports students, faculty, and staff in all areas of copyright related to teaching and learning. The information found on this guide is not legal advice, but intended to promote a better understanding of the rights and responsibilities of students and educators. The Mount Royal University Fair Dealing Guidelines outline best practices when using copyrighted works. 

If you'd like to learn more, register for a copyright workshop, or email the copyright advisor at


Additional resources:

Introduction to copyright

What is copyright?

It's a type of intellectual property that gives the owner the exclusive right to produce, reproduce, perform, publish, adapt, translate, or telecommunicate a work, and to determine how others may do these things. Copyright does not protect ideas, facts, or news, but rather the expression of these things once they are 'fixed' in some way (digital or physical). These expressions are generally referred to as "works" which encompasses books, musical scores, recordings, videos, poems, photographs, drawings, clip art, sculptures, websites, and many more things. In order for a work to be protected by copyright, there must be an element of originality, skill and judgment in its creation - more than that required to create (for example) a telephone book.

Usually the creator of a work is the first copyright owner, but individual copyrights may be broken up and assigned, licensed, or sold to other people (e.g. an author assigning digital publishing copyrights to her publisher). This means that the author or creator may not be the copyright owner.


How is copyright created?

Copyright is created the moment an original work is set in any 'fixed' form, meaning it's outside of the creator's head and accessible in some way (e.g. when it's drawn, written, recorded, saved to a hard drive, or uploaded to the Internet). In Canada, you don't have to register a work, nor does the word "copyright" nor the symbol "©" need to be added for protection - though it is a good reminder. A creator may choose to register a work with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office as proof of ownership, but it's not mandatory.


How long does copyright last?

Canadian copyright generally lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years after the year of death. At that point the work enters the public domain. Not all countries use the same term, but if you are using a work in Canada, you can apply Canadian copyright law.


Copyright applies to many things including: architectural designs, books, communication signals, computer programs, diagrams & charts, drawings, maps, musical scores, paintings, pamphlets & brochures, performances (if recorded), photographs, sculptures, sound recordings, video recordings, and websites. Keep in mind that copyright applies to works in any format, so it doesn't matter if something is printed on paper, made out of clay, or saved to a web server and posted to the Internet; it is still protected by copyright.


What is the purpose of copyright (User and Owner Rights)?

Copyright was created to serve the public interest by promoting culture, creativity, and to support education by giving copyright creators limited control over their work so they could profit and make more works. Creators are also given moral rights which can be waived, but cannot be licensed, sold, or given away. Moral rights include the right to be identified as a work's creator (or to remain anonymous) and to protect one's honour and integrity in how a work is treated and what it's associated with. 

Along with limited owner rights, the Copyright Act creates equally important user rights (such as fair dealing) that support the purpose of copyright (upholding the public interest by supporting free speech, education, access to information, and cultural creativity). User rights form an active part in the dissemination and promotion of information, art and literature, and are a necessary part of copyright law. This means that owner rights are not unlimited, which is why educational users can use copyrighted works in many cases without permission, license, or payment.


What is copyright infringement?

Generally, it is up to an owner to take action when they discover their copyright in a work has been infringed. A copyright owner may sue for actual damages (losses due to the infringement), but they can also claim set amounts under the Copyright Act. For commercial infringements, an infringer may have to pay between $500 and $20,000, and for a non-commercial infringement the fine is between $100 - $5,000. 

Although rare, there are also criminal penalties for copyright infringement which may include fines and/or imprisonment, but they are generally only imposed on commercial infringers.


What responsibility do I have as a MRU employee or student to copyright? 

MRU employees and students are required to inform themselves of the requirements to use information and materials ethically and appropriately, including ensuring they are following the requirements of the Copyright Act. If you aren't sure or have questions, we are here to help! Contact the Copyright Advisor at


Fair dealing 

What is fair dealing?

Fair dealing is one of the user rights in the Copyright Act (s. 29) that allows any person to make a copy of a copyrighted work without having to ask permission or pay royalties. In order to qualify for fair dealing, two tests must be passed: 

  1. The dealing must be for a purpose stated in the Act: research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting. 
  2. The dealing must be fair. 


How do I determine what is fair? 

To determine fairness for university purposes, the MRU community can look to the institutional Fair Dealing Guidelines. These guidelines outline best practices when using copyrighted works under fair dealing. If your use goes beyond the guidelines, please contact the Copyright Advisor (, who can provide any additional information. 

To determine fairness for personal purposes, an individual can undertake an analysis to assess the fairness of their dealing. Assessing whether the use of a copyright-protected work qualifies as fair dealing involves an analysis of two broad, subjective, and intentionally ambiguous legal tests. The first legal test considers the purpose for using the work, and the second test will help an individual assess the "fairness" of their dealing. If either test fails, they will need to contact the copyright owner for permission prior to using the material.

  1. The dealing must be for a purpose stated in the Act: research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting. 
  2. The dealing must be fair. This can be determined through the six factors provided by the Supreme Court (excerpted from CCH v. LAW SOCIETY OF UPPER CANADA [2004] 1 S.C.R. 339).  
    1. the purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting;
    2. the character of the proposed copying, including whether it involves single or multiple copies, and whether the copy is destroyed after it is used for its specific intended purpose;
    3. the amount of the dealing from the individual user’s perspective, including the proportion of the work that is copied and the importance of that excerpt in relation to the whole work; this is often referred to as a “short excerpt” and must contain no more of the work than is required in order to achieve the fair dealing purpose;
    4. alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyrighted equivalent available;
    5. the nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and
    6. the effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.

Mandatory citation for criticism, review, or news Reporting: If you are using a work for the purposes of criticism, review or news reporting, the Copyright Act (ss. 29.1 and 29.2) requires that you mention the following:

  • the source; and
  • if given in the source,
    • the name of the author, in the case of a work,
    • performer, in the case of a performer's performance,
    • maker, in the case of a sound recording, or
    • broadcaster, in the case of a communication signal.


How do I apply the "six factor" fair dealing test? 

Watch Opening Up Copyright's Applying Fair Dealing module below (10 mins).

Attribution: "Applying Fair Dealing" was created and made available by Opening Up Copyright (University of Alberta Copyright Office) and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 (CC BY 4.0) International license

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. Email the Copyright Advisor at

  • Copyright review of course materials: Course materials that are not licensed library resources or free of re-use restrictions (e.g., OER), but which are to be made available to students through D2L, should be checked against the limits of the Mount Royal University Fair Dealing Guidelines. Materials that are within the limits of the Fair Dealing Guidelines and that are made available via D2L do not require a specific copyright review, although the Copyright Office is pleased to assist with any questions about the interpretation of those guidelines. Please contact the Copyright Office regarding course materials that are to be distributed in electronic format where the intended section is not within the Fair Dealing Guidelines or where there are other indicators that permission to distribute the selection (e.g., e-license terms which do not allow for the proposed use). 

  • 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.

  • D2L: For assistance with your D2L site, please contact the Academic Development Center ("ADC").

  • Course packs: For information on course packs (including deadlines), please contact the Bookstore.

Upcoming Events and Workshops

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Taylor McPeak
Drop in: Wednesdays 12:30-2:00 at the Library Service Desk.
Phone: 403.440.8946
Office: EL 4423L
Subjects: Copyright

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.