Copyright for Students
Third party works in assignments
You may copy portions from copyrighted works to illustrate a point that you are making in an assignment, a scholarly work, article, or blog posting (to name just a few contexts) without the permission of the copyright owner. You must always cite the source of any works you use. In many cases, using such excerpts is considered "insubstantial" and does not create a copyright issue. In other cases, you may be able to rely on fair dealing to support using larger portions without permission.
The amount used should be for the purpose of illustrating your larger point and would not normally involve copying an entire work. There may be case where a significant portion of a work or an entire work must be used, such as with a photograph. As long as the context of your use supports the amount used, there is a strong case for it being fair. Fair dealing does not change and still applies if your work is published. A publisher may choose to get permission for extracts prior to publication.
What can I use in a multimedia assignment like a video or PowerPoint?
Fair dealing allows for the use of copyrighted works such as text, images, video and sound recordings in multimedia assignments and for you to share the assignment in class presentations or through D2L. The Non-Commercial User-Generated Content provision of the Copyright Act lets you also share your assignment on websites open to the general public without infringing copyright, as long as the conditions of the provision are met. Video-based assignments, for example, can use existing web platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo.
Can I play a song in my presentation?
Yes, as long as it does not require changing the format of the music (e.g. copying music from a CD to a file format that can be embedded in a PowerPoint presentation). If you wish to add music to a PowerPoint presentation shown in class and for educational purposes, you may play that music in its original format to coincide with the presentation instead (e.g., playing a CD using a CD player or playing a digital file using an MP3 player). It's best to source copyright-friendly music wherever possible.
Can I show a video in class?
You can show a video in DVD or VHS format as long as it is a legal copy. For example, one you own, bought from a store or borrowed from the library. An illegally downloaded copy should never be shown in class (e.g. off Bittorrent or another sharing platform). YouTube videos may be streamed in the classroom for educational purposes provided that the video is accessed directly through the YouTube website and the video was legally uploaded by the YouTube channel (e.g. it's not the latest Star Wars movie uploaded by a random fan). For videos from other websites, refer to each site’s terms and conditions, though websites with logins, such as Netflix, can never be used as you are only licensed to show them in the privacy of your home.
Can I record my instructor's lecture?
Under copyright law, the instructor and any presenters in your class own copyright in lectures. Any copy, live stream or broadcast of the lecture therefore belongs to them. You must ask permission to record or take pictures of a lecture before doing so. Your class notes, assuming they are not a verbatim record of the lecture, belong to you.
Can I share either my own or the instructor's lecture notes or other materials distributed in class or on D2L?
Learning materials authored and provided by your instructor such as class notes and PowerPoints have copyright that belongs to your instructor. Never share these works with anyone, especially not by posting them to the web or offering them through class materials or note sharing sites or other sites like Slideshare, Researchgate.
How do I know if something on the Internet is protected by copyright?
Everything on the Internet is protected by copyright. Even if you don't see "copyright" or "©".
Do I have to cite every single work I use?
Yes. Students are expected to properly cite their work by acknowledging the author and source of the material. This is required for both copyright attribution and academic integrity purposes (to avoid plagiarism).
Can I add my assignments to my portfolio?
After graduation, you will likely want to use your portfolio in a job search. Some of your work may include parts of copyrighted works. The works in your portfolio can be used to showcase yourself under the non-commercial user-generated content provision as long as the use fulfils all conditions of the provision. In most cases, this would be considered a non-commercial activity.
Where can I find copyright friendly resources?
Check out the copyright friendly resources tab on the banner at the top of the page.
Student Open Access Repository (MROAR) submissions
Students can choose to submit assignments, research projects, posters, honours theses, capstone projects, etc. to the Mount Royal Open Access Repository (MROAR). The MROAR is a digital showcase of the scholarship, research, and intellectual contributions of the MRU community. It aims to collect, preserve, promote, and provide free and open access to these resources for researchers and learners everywhere.
Below are a number of FAQs to assist students in all things copyright when submitting to the MROAR. This section does not apply to in-class assignments. See Third Party Works in Assignments for more details.
Do I own copyright in my submission?
Yes. However, if you choose to submit your work to the Mount Royal Open Access Repository (MROAR), you will be required to allow the University Library to post your work in the university’s institutional repository, as well as permit the University Library to preserve and make your work available on the Internet. These licenses clearly stipulate that you own the copyright to your works, but that you have allowed "non-exclusive" use of your work to the University Library.
Do I need copyright permission to put an image (e.g. photo, maps, diagram, figure, etc.) in my submission?
Up until the time that your work is added to the MROAR, it is considered a private work and images can be used without permission as long as they are properly cited and adhere to the university’s Fair Dealing Guidelines. However, once your work is distributed through MROAR, permission from the copyright holders of any images or figures used in your work is required.
How do I determine who the copyright holder is and how do I go about getting permission from them?
The University of British Columbia's copyright website (see the “How to Obtain Permission” section) includes useful information for students about how to identify copyright holders and where to go to request copyright permission. The earlier that you can start the permission request process, the better, as copyright holders can be difficult to find or get a hold of and sometimes they take a long time to respond. Additionally, the copyright libguide provides a number of permissions templates for you to use when seeking permission. If you require any assistance, please reach out to the Copyright Advisor.
What if I'm not granted copyright permission in time or the copyright fee being charged is too expensive?
If permission is not granted in time for you to submit your work to the MROAR (or if the copyright holder is asking for a fee that you decide not to pay), the image(s) for which clearance/permission was not received must be removed from your work before it is submitted to MROAR. In the space where the image was removed, you would then add a statement indicating that the image was removed due to copyright restrictions and include an image description and full citation where the image can be found. Here is an example statement:
“Figure 3 has been removed due to copyright restrictions. It was a diagram of the apparatus used in performing the experiment, showing the changes made by the investigating team. Original source: Wu, G. and Thompson, J.R. (2008) Effect of Ketone Bodies on Dairy Cattle. Biochem J. 255:139-144.” (This example citation was retrieved from The University of British Columbia’s copyright website, CC BY-SA 4.0)
Are there any types of images for which I don't need to acquire copyright permission to include them in my submission?
Copyright permission would not be required for including the following types of images in your work:
- An image for which you are the only copyright owner (e.g., an image that you created alone and for which you have not transferred copyright to a publisher or anyone else).
- Images that are in the Public Domain (i.e., are no longer protected by copyright). Please note that “Public Domain” does not mean that anything publicly available on the Internet can be used without copyright permission. Most works on the Internet are protected by copyright and would require permission for being included in a work.
- Images that have Creative Commons licenses that specifically allow for their reuse in a new work.
- Some Canadian federal government materials (e.g., materials protected by Crown copyright).
What about copying text into my submission? Do I need permission for including quotes in my submission?
With regard to copying text into your work, permission should be acquired for use of long quotations or excerpts. A short quote that you would include in the body of your text would not require copyright permission and a block quotation would not necessarily require permission. There is no exact word count that is the maximum amount of text that could be used before permission is required. It would be advisable to err on the side of caution and seek permission for long quotations (e.g. Generally speaking, quoting 1-2 sentences from a work does not require permission). If you are unsure about what constitutes a long quotation, you can consult with your subject librarian. Your citation style guidelines (e.g., APA, MLA, etc.) may include helpful information on this as well.
The information on this page has been adapted from the University of Saskatchewan’s “Copyright for Students - Thesis Frequently Asked Questions”, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
If you need help or have specific questions, contact the Copyright Advisor at MRUcopyright@mtroyal.ca.
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.