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Copyright for Students


What can I use at home (for personal use)?

You may use copyright protected works (those that aren't in the public domain) under the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act for personal research, study, or even simply out of personal interest.

Fair dealing applies to your private use of works for research or study. In most cases, you can make a single copy of a "fair" excerpt from a work for your own research or private study as long as you don't distribute it (such as posting it to the Internet). That said, it would be within your rights to post a "fair' excerpt of a work to a website, such as a blog, especially if it is for additional purposes such as news reporting, criticism, parody, or review. You may also be able to share your own new works that contain third party works under the non-commercial user generated content user right.

The amount of works that is copied will affect whether or not a particular use is "fair." Copying an entire book for your personal use would not be fair, but, depending on the context, copying a chapter from a book for a research project would likely qualify. However, copying multiple chapters of a text instead of purchasing it would likely be unfair. In some cases it may be fair to copy an entire work, such as a journal or magazine article, a single photograph, or a poem.


Reproduction for private purposes (format-shifting)

The reproduction, for private purposes, of any work is permitted as long as the source copy was legally obtained and a digital lock is not circumvented to make the copy. This allows you to copy a CD to your computer or transfer a file or iTunes purchase from one device to another. The source copy and the devices would need to be owned by you (or, in some cases, a member of your household) in order for it to be legal. This provision does not address copying onto a CD-R or other “recording medium” (such copying would be covered in some cases by the copying levy - such as on CD-Rs). The provision also does not allow you to give away or share a copy you made.


Backup copies

A backup copy of a work may be made to protect against the loss of the source copy or anything that may make the original unusable, if the source was a legally obtained copy and a digital lock is not circumvented to make the copy. The backup copy cannot be given away or shared. The source copy cannot be sold or given away without first destroying the backup.


Recording signals and recording programs for listening/viewing at a later time (time-shifting)

Under section 29.23 of the Copyright Act, it is legal to record radio and television programs for listening or viewing at a later time. So, you can use your PVR (or VCR if you are still into that) to record shows. The provision allows programs to be kept for a reasonable time to view (or listen to) at a more convenient time, but does not allow a collection of shows to be made and kept indefinitely.


Private copying and file sharing

A copy of a musical work may be made for private use onto an audio recording medium without infringing copyright. This has been confirmed to include hard drives and could include downloads. Despite rumours to the contrary, however, it is not legal in Canada to share (distribute or communicate by telecommunication) copyright-protected files with a large group over file sharing services such as BitTorrent. 

Specific FAQs

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 "©". That's why you have to understand your educational user rights. However, the most important consideration when sourcing works off the Internet is "was this uploaded by the copyright owner or at least with their permission?" If not, it's an illegal source, and none of your user rights apply. Find out more here.


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 right in the Copyright Act allows you to 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. However, keep in mind that you should always consider whether the owner of the work is likely to discover and mistakenly challenge your legal use under Canadian user rights. For example, you may not want to post an assignment containing a clip of the latest Star Wars movie to YouTube because Disney is very assertive over perceived infringements.


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). Otherwise, you will need the copyright holder's permission to embed it in the PowerPoint slide file.


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 produced and uploaded by the YouTube user or channel (e.g. it's not the latest Star Wars movie uploaded by a random fan). Videos cannot be downloaded and/or altered in any way for showing the video in the classroom, nor may they be embedded or posted into Blackboard or other websites. For videos from other websites, refer to each site’s specific 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.


What can I include in 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 fulfills all conditions of the provision. In most cases, this would be considered a non-commercial activity.


Can I record my instructor's lecture?

Under copyright law, the instructor and any presenters in your class own copyright in the “performance” that is in a lecture. 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. You can share amounts appropriate under fair dealing (e.g up to 10%), keeping in mind that the more you share and the broader the audience, the less fair the sharing will be. Never share full copies of these works to a broad audience, such as by posting them to the web or offering them through class materials sharing sites, without the instructor's permission and never post someone else's works to sites such as Slideshare, Researchgate, CourseHero, or StudySoup.


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).


Where can I find copyright friendly resources?

Check out the resources page here. But remember, many sites just don't have the resources to check that every upload owns copyright in what they post, so always ask yourself if they appear to be the owner or have permission - this often takes a little critical thinking and poking around the site to find out more about the uploader and the work they uploaded. The rule you should live by is "if it seems sketchy, don't use it".

Copyright and you

Why should I care about copyright at MRU? It is good scholarly practice. Individuals are responsible for the intellectual and ethical integrity of their work. MRU's Copyright Materials Policy applies to you!

Basically that means you have to comply with the Copyright Act, RSC 1985, c C-42. Employers will also expect you to be aware of copyright (so why not learn it now?). Copyright doesn't just protect other people's work - it protects yours, too! There are legal and ethical issues to consider when using someone else’s work in your assignments.

While plagiarism relates to the use of a work without acknowledgment, copyright relates to the use of a work without permission or via one of your user rights. You cannot use videos, songs, or photographs, for example, in a public performance without ensuring you have permission from the copyright holder to do so (unless it is covered by a license agreement or a user right). Simply citing where you got something doesn't make your use legal. Remember – just because you can’t find a © symbol, it doesn’t mean there’s no copyright and almost everything you find on the Internet is protected by copyright.

What can I use in assignments?

The Copyright Act of Canada, along with various international treaties determine how you can or cannot use other people's works. These provide MRU students with a number of circumstances in which they can use excerpts from other people's works in assignments without getting the copyright owner's permission (this list also applies to posts to Blackboard and in-class presentations):

  • If the work falls within the public domain;
  • If you created the work, such as a photograph, article, diagram, etc., then you own the copyright in it and can determine how it is used;
  • If the work comes from an Open Access Educational Resource;
  • If the work carries a license such as Creative Commons (but be sure to abide by the terms of the license);
  • By using works that are licensed through MRU's e-licenses (always make sure the terms of the license allow for the particular use);
  • By applying any of your applicable User Rights under the Copyright Act; or if none of these are applicable,
  • By obtaining a transactional license or written permission to use the material (click here for help with this);

Note: None of your user rights will apply if you did not obtain the work legally.

Legal notice

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.