Copyright Basics for Students

What is Copyright?

Copyright is "the sole right or the right to allow others to publish, produce and to perform in public a literary or artistic work, for any purpose."

In Canada, protection begins immediately on creation of the work and exists until 50 years after the creator's death. After that time, the work is usually considered part of the public domain and, therefore, not subject to copyright restrictions. The Canadian Copyright Act gives copyright owners — usually authors or publishers — the sole right to copy or to authorize someone else to copy their works.

The “fair dealing” provision set out in the Canadian Copyright Act permits making a single copy of an unsubstantial portion of a work for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire, and parody. 

What can you copy? 

Be careful what you copy. The Canadian Copyright Act allows you to copy someone else’s work under these guidelines.

You can make a single copy of a “short excerpt” from a copyright-protected work.

A short excerpt means:

a) up to 10% of a copyright-protected work (including a literary work, musical score, sound recording, and an audiovisual work)

b) only one chapter from a book

c) a single article from a periodical

d) an entire artistic work (including a painting, print, photograph, diagram, drawing, map, chart, and plan) from a copyright-protected work containing other artistic works

e) an entire newspaper article or page

f) an entire single poem or musical score from a copyright-protected work containing other poems or musical scores

g) an entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary or similar reference work.

h) for online works, assume that all information and graphics posted on the Internet are protected by copyright unless a specific statement is given, waiving this right.

You may make single print copies for purposes of study, research or criticism. Copying or communicating multiple short excerpts from the same copyright-protected work with the intention of copying or communicating substantially the entire work is prohibited.