Copyright for Students
Copyright and 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.
Copyright and undergraduate research
The following FAQs will assist students in understanding copyright as it relates to undergraduate research such as undergraduate theses, research projects, and submissions to MRU library’s hosting services such as the open access repository.
Do I own the copyright in my undergraduate research project?
Students at Mount Royal University own the intellectual property they create. Research is no exception. If you created the work on your own, then it is likely you are the sole copyright owner. If the work was jointly created, you may share copyright ownership with the other author(s). If the research is published in a commercial journal, there may be a transfer of copyright. It is important to read these transfer agreements carefully. For more information, visit the library’s Undergraduate Research Guide.
Do I need copyright permission to put an image (e.g. photo, maps, diagram, figure, etc.) in my undergraduate research?
Assignments are considered a private work (unless published) and images can be used without permission as long as they are properly cited and fall under fair dealing or a similar provision. However, before your work is published, if the submission includes reproductions of copyright protected images the author of the submission must in some cases obtain written authorization from the copyright holder in order to reproduce this material for inclusion in the undergraduate research. If fair dealing or a similar provision applies, the material is usable under a Creative Commons or similar license, or the material is not protected by copyright (e.g., the work is in the public domain, the work is factual/data), permission may not be necessary.
What is fair dealing and can I use it for my undergraduate research?
Fair dealing is one of the user rights in the Copyright Act that allows any person to make a copy of a copyrighted work. In order for fair dealing to apply to your use of others’ works in your submission,
- the copying must be for one or more of the following purposes: research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting, and
- the copying must be fair.
When copying copyrighted works for use in an institutional repository submission, such copying is primarily for the purposes of research, criticism, and/or review. Fair dealing is not meant for illustrative/decorative purposes. Its purpose is to engage with and disseminate the third-party content under the purposes set forth in the Copyright Act.
To determine whether a particular instance of copying may be considered “fair” for the purposes of fair dealing, the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that all relevant factors need to be considered, including the following, which comprise what is sometimes referred-to as the “six-factor” fair dealing test:
- the purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting;
- 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;
- 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;
- alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyrighted equivalent available;
- the nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and
- the effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.
It is not necessary that your use satisfies every one of these factors in order to be fair, and no one factor is determinative by itself. In assessing whether your use is fair, a court would look at the factors as a whole to determine if, on balance, your use is fair.
For more information on fair dealing in general, including the University’s approach to determining whether something is a “short excerpt”, please see MRU’s Fair Dealing Guidelines.
- If your use of others’ work in your submission is “fair”, then you do not need to ask for permission to use it.
- If your use of the work would not be “fair” then you do need to seek permission to use it.
How do I apply the “six-factor” fair dealing test to my undergraduate research?
For details, you can watch Opening Up Copyright’s Applying Fair Dealing module (10 mins.).
Who is responsible for determining whether or not my research qualifies as fair dealing?
As a student, you are responsible for the content of your undergraduate research and, thus, for determining whether your proposed use of copyrighted works qualifies as fair dealing or whether you need to seek permission. The Copyright Advisor (email@example.com) can assist you through one on one consultations or you can attend a copyright workshop.
Can the Copyright Advisor give me a definitive answer about whether my use of something is fair dealing or not?
While the Copyright Advisor (firstname.lastname@example.org) can assist you with your fair dealing analysis, they cannot provide a "definitive" answer. The limits of what can be included under the fair dealing exception is a matter of interpretation and involves a number of factors. If there is a dispute with the copyright-holder regarding such an interpretation of fair dealing, the ultimate decision-maker would be the courts. However, in practice, for non-commercial uses (such as short excerpts included in your submission) with minimal economic impact on the copyright holder, such disputes are often resolved between the parties themselves.
How does copyright apply to data?
Data and factual information (e.g., rainfall or temperature measurements, mortality rates, population numbers, currency values, chemical structures, historical facts and dates, the number of Twitter followers someone has) are not protected by copyright. Additionally, simple and typical visualizations such as line graphs and tables (see example below) are often not creative enough to be eligible for copyright protection. These types of material may be able to be copied and used without permission.
Accumulated Precipitation over One Week for Calgary
However, some types of more creative research products that might be used in a similar way to data (e.g., photographs, audiovisual recordings, detailed diagrams and charts, collections of text mined from websites or publications) are most likely protected by copyright.
In your research, if you are:
- Using someone else's data or your data incorporates work created by others: Consider its copyright status, and ensure that you have the right or permission to copy and share it. Remember that fair dealing and other rights may apply.
- Generating or compiling data: Copyright in these materials may belong to you, another member of your research team, or an external third party.
- Depositing material in a research data repository: You must be certain that you have the right to upload the material. If your material incorporates works created by others, you should have the permission of those other creators to upload it to a data repository, unless your use of the work falls under fair dealing or a similar provision.
Image credit: Graph generated at https://acis.alberta.ca/weather-data-viewer.jsp
When do I seek permission?
If your use of a copyrighted work is substantial, does not qualify for fair dealing or a similar provision, does not fall under an open license (e.g. Creative Commons) then seeking permission is the next step.
How do I determine who the copyright holder is and how do I go about getting permission from them?
Seeking permission is a straightforward process, but obtaining responses from copyright owners can take a long time. You are strongly encouraged to send out your permission requests as early as possible.
Identify the Copyright Owner
The first step in the process is to identify the copyright owner. Usually you will be able to identify the owner somewhere on the work by looking for the copyright symbol ©, which should have the copyright owner’s name next to it. You’ll often find this at the beginning of a book, at the side of a photograph or at the bottom of a web page.
Permission from Individuals
If the copyright owner is an individual, then the next step is to obtain the permission in writing by emailing that individual, requesting permission and explaining how and why you want to use the work. You should keep a record of who gave the permission, what was permitted, the date, and the contact information of the copyright holder.
Permission from Journals and Commercial Publishers
Alternatively, the fastest course of action is often to search for the work in question at the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). The CCC handles permissions for a large number of publishers, and permission to include images in theses and other student work can often be obtained through the CCC website swiftly and at no cost.
If you cannot obtain permission through the CCC, you can check the journal’s or publisher’s website. When you arrive at the website, look for a link that says “Rights and Permissions” (or something similar), then read through the available information to determine the correct method for requesting permission.
Proof of Permission
You should keep copies of all letters, forms, and emails granting you permission to use copyrighted material. Make sure you keep a physical and electronic copy if permission is given on a webpage; do not just save a link to the webpage, These copies are for your own records.
For assistance with seeking permission from a copyright holder, or if you have any questions about obtaining a copyright permission for a particular copyrighted work, please contact the Copyright Advisor (email@example.com).
What about copying text into my undergraduate research? Do I need permission for including quotes?
With regard to copying text into your work, permission should be acquired for use of long quotations or excerpts (unless fair dealing or a similar provision applies). 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. If you are unsure about what constitutes a long quotation (which may require permission if fair dealing or a similar provision doesn’t apply), you can consult with your subject librarian. The MRU citation style guidelines (e.g., APA, MLA, etc.) may include helpful information on this as well.
How can I share my undergraduate research through the library?
The Mount Royal University Library has initiatives such as the Open Access Repository and Journal Hosting Service that can publish your research and make it freely accessible to anyone, anywhere, anytime by making it open access.
The information on this page has been adapted from the following sources:
- University of Saskatchewan’s “Copyright for Students - Thesis Frequently Asked Questions”, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
- University of Alberta’s “Graduate Thesis Copyright FAQ”, used with permission.
- University of British Columbia’s “Theses and Dissertations”, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License.
- Simon Fraser University’s “Data and Copyright”, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License.
Contacting the Copyright Office
The Copyright Advisor can assist you in copyright matters as it pertains to your education and research at MRU. 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.