Copyright for students
What can I use 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 Blackboard. 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 Blackboard?
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.
If you need help or have specific questions, contact the Copyright Advisor at MRUcopyright@mtroyal.ca.