Skip to main content

Copyright

A guide to copyright for Royal Roads University faculty, students, and staff.

What is Copyright?

When any person in Canada creates an original "work", the Canadian Copyright Act (and Canadian court decisions) automatically governs who has the right to produce, copy, perform, publish, adapt, translate or telecommunicate that work.

The term "work" means

  • any literary, artistic, dramatic and musical work,
  • a computer program,
  • a translation of a work,
  • a compilation of others' works,
  • a recording of any kind, and
  • a performance of a work.

In Canada, copyright is implied; as soon as a work is created it is protected by copyright, even if the author does not include a copyright statement or symbol. Canada is a party to various international copyright treaties, which have been implemented by the Copyright Act, and which influence court decisions.

Generally (but not always), the author of the work is the copyright owner – and that person is said to hold or own the copyright in the work. In other words, they have the right to control if and how the work will be produced, copied, performed, etc.  The rights of the copyright owner, however, are subject to certain user rights or 'exceptions', which permit members of the general public to copy, perform etc. works in certain limited circumstances, without the copyright owner's knowledge or permission.  Some examples of these exceptions include fair dealing (sx.29), educational exceptions (sx. 29.4), and reproduction for persons with perceptual disabilities (sx.32).

Copyright applies once the work is put into a fixed form (e.g. written down on paper, saved on a computer, recorded, videotaped, or painted on canvas) except for a sound recording, performer's performance or communication signal (which may be transmitted instead of fixed). The work does not have to be in its final form – copyright applies to drafts too.

Copyright specifically protects a "work or any substantial part thereof" (sx. 3). This implies that the use of insubstantial parts of a work, such as short quotations, is allowed without copyright permission. Material such as figures, drawings, maps, photographs etc. may be considered to be whole works, and they are therefore considered to be substantial parts. Unless the author specifically states otherwise, or the work is now Public Domain, permission is needed to use substantial parts of third party material in a published thesis or dissertation.

Copyright Basics

General copyright information, including what it covers, how long it lasts, how you get permission to use someone’s copyrighted material and how it works internationally.

  1. What are the laws and rules relating to copyright at Royal Roads University?
  2. What does copyright protect?
  3. How do I know if something is protected by copyright?
  4. What rights does a copyright owner have?
  5. What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?
  6. Does fair dealing include teaching?
  7. How long does copyright last?
  8. What is meant by ‘the public domain’? How do I know if something is public domain?
  9. How does copyright work internationally?
  10. I’m from the United States.  How is copyright different here?
  11. How do I get permission to use someone else’s work?
  12. What are moral rights and what do they have to do with copyright?
  13. Who owns the copyright in the works I create at RRU?
  14. Where can I find more information on copyright for my thesis?

BASICS

1. What are the laws and rules relating to copyright at Royal Roads University?

The Canadian Copyright Act, court decisions and various agreements and licences entered into by the University with copyright owners and representative organizations govern the use of copyrighted materials at RRU.  The Copyright Act and court decisions in Canada prescribe what you can and can’t do with other people’s copyrighted materials.  In addition to this, RRU has license agreements with copyright owners and publishers, such as subscriptions to electronic journals, which give you additional rights to copy works that are governed by these license agreements.  RRU has over 100 electronic subscription licenses that give faculty and students access to thousands of journals and millions of copyrighted works.  To determine whether what you want to do is permissible, you need to check, by contacting either the Copyright Office or the reference librarians, that you comply with any licences covering the work in question and/or the Copyright Act.  You should ask yourself:

Is the work in question covered by a licence that the University Library has with publishers or a public licence such as a Creative Commons licence? If so, is what I want to do permissible under those licences?

If not, is what I want to do covered by the Copyright Act, either under the educational exceptions or under the fair dealing exception?

If your copying is not permitted by any licence or the Copyright Act, you will need to get permission for what you want to do from the copyright owner.

2. What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects all original literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, computers programs, translations and compilations of works, as well as sound recordings, performances and communication signals.  This encompasses a wide range of things, ranging from books, articles, posters, manuals and graphs, to CDs, DVDs, software, databases and websites.

3. How do I know if something is protected by copyright?

Copyright protection arises automatically when any one of the above types of works is created and generally continues for 50 years after the author’s death (and note that translations or annotations of such works are also copyrighted).  When you want to use a particular work, the safest approach is to assume that the work is protected by copyright, unless there’s a clear indication to the contrary or the author has been dead for at least 50 years, and the work is not a translation or annotation of the original author’s work.

4. What rights does a copyright owner have?

Copyright is the sole and exclusive right of a copyright owner to produce, reproduce, perform, publish, adapt, translate and telecommunicate a work, and to control the circumstances in which others may do any of these things.  These rights are subject to certain exceptions under the Copyright Act which balance the copyright owner’s interests with the public interest in allowing use of works for purposes such as education and research.

5. What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?

Fair dealing is an exception in the Copyright Act that allows any person to make a single copy of a copyrighted work for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, review or news reporting.  The law relating to the fair dealing exception does not provide clear answers with respect to whether exactly what is permitted copying within the fair dealing exception.  When determining whether copying falls within the fair dealing exception, Canadian courts will consider the following factors:

       i.         the purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, parody or satire;

     ii.         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;

    iii.         the amount or proportion of the work which is proposed to be copied and the importance of that work;

   iv.         alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyrighted equivalent available;

     v.         the nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and

   vi.         the effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.

In addition, if the purpose of your copying is for criticism, review or news reporting, you must also mention the source and author of the work for it to be fair dealing.  For more guidance and additional information limits on the amount and nature of copying permitted under fair dealing in certain contexts, please review the RRU Fair Dealing Policy and the information on fair dealing exceptions.

Please note that it is important to distinguish ‘fair dealing’ from ‘fair use’.  The fair use doctrine under United States copyright laws is NOT the equivalent of the fair dealing exception under Canadian copyright laws.  Fair dealing as defined by the Copyright Act is more restrictive than the fair use provisions in the United States.  It is therefore important to make sure that you consider Canadian legal principles and do not rely on U.S. laws.

6. Does fair dealing include teaching?

Although the fair dealing exception does not use the word “teaching”, it would allow a teacher to make a single copy of a work for criticism or review.  So if you are teaching geography, for example, and you want to discuss and critique with your students a recent study relating to eco-tourism in developing countries (which is not covered by a licence that the Library has for e-resources or any of the Copyright Act’s educational exceptions), and you mention the author and source of the work, it may be considered fair dealing to share this material with your students.  However, merely providing the work without any commentary or criticism would not be considered fair dealing for the purposes of criticism or review.  The purpose must clearly be criticism or review and your copying must be fair, taking into account the factors under Question 1.5.  If you are not sure whether your proposed copying constitutes fair dealing, you should contact the Copyright Office, as you may need to seek permission from the copyright owner.

7. How long does copyright last?

In Canada, copyright generally lasts for the lifetime of the author, plus 50 years.

8. What is meant by ‘the public domain’? How do I know if something is public domain?

The term “public domain” refers to works in which the copyright has expired or where the copyright owner has made a clear declaration that they will not assert copyright in the work and that it is their intention that the work should be in the public domain.

For example, although copyright in Shakespeare’s plays expired long ago, many of the published editions of his plays contain added original materials (such as annotations, translations, footnotes, prefaces etc.) that are copyright protected because the authors have used skill and judgment in creating the new material.  This creates a new copyright in the additional original works, but not in the underlying text of the original work in which the copyright has expired.

Never assume that everything you find on the internet is in the public domain just because it is publicly available.  Most of the material that you find online is protected by copyright.  When copying online materials, you should confirm whether your proposed copying is permitted within the fair dealing exception, under the educational exceptions within the Copyright Act, or is specifically permitted by the copyright owner, under the website’s ‘Terms of Use’, or ‘Legal Notices’ section.

9. How does copyright work internationally?

By virtue of international conventions, copyright is recognized internationally.  So, generally, your copyright will be protected in other countries. But it is protected under that country’s laws so there may be some differences from the level of protection you would get in Canada.  If you’re concerned about someone’s use of your work in other countries, you will need to check the particular jurisdiction’s copyright laws to confirm whether they are infringing your copyright.

10. I’m from the United States. How is copyright different here?

Copyright laws in the U.S. and Canada are different.  For example, the U.S. has a doctrine known as ‘fair use’ which is different from the Canadian ‘fair dealing’ exception. The Canadian fair dealing exception is limited to making a single copy for research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire or parody. If you are from the U.S. or are collaborating with a U.S. researcher, you should keep in mind that the rules which apply to the copyrighted materials that you intend to copy or create may differ depending on where you want to use them.

11. How do I get permission to use someone else’s work?

You ask.  If your use isn’t permitted by a licence, or one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, you will need to ask for permission. The permission must come from the copyright owner so the first step is to identify who the copyright owner is and whether there is an organization that represents the owner. There are a number of copyright collectives that can give you permission (in the form of a licence) on behalf of the copyright owner to use their work. For example, if you want to use music and your use doesn’t fall within any of the Copyright Act’s exceptions, you can go to copyright collectives such as Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) or Re:Sound Music Licensing Company that administer copyright in music.

However, if the copyright owner is easily identifiable and locatable, it can sometimes be easier to contact them directly as many copyright owners will give permission to academic users without requiring payment.  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.  Once you’ve located the owner, simply email or write to him/her, explaining how and why you want to use the work and requesting permission.  The permission should be in writing; an email message will suffice.  It is not advisable to rely on verbal permission.  It’s also a good idea to keep a file record of who gave the permission, what was permitted, the date, and how to contact the person who gave the permission.

A note to all instructors:  At RRU, the copyright function is centralised within the Copyright Office.  We are happy to provide the permissions service to faculty and staff for courses and other University use.  If you do obtain permissions on your own, please send us a copy of the copyright agreement from the copyright holder so that we can keep that agreement on file.

12. What are moral rights and what do they have to do with copyright?

Moral rights are additional legal rights held by authors of copyrighted works.  They consist of the right of attribution, and the right to protect the integrity of a work and the reputation of its author.  The right of attribution is the right, where reasonable in the circumstances, to be associated with the work as its author by name or under a pseudonym or the right to remain anonymous.  The right of integrity is the right not to have a work (a) distorted, mutilated or otherwise modified, or (b) used in association with a product, service, cause or institution, in a way which is prejudicial to the author’s honour or reputation.  These rights are important for authors to ensure they receive appropriate recognition for their work and for prohibiting any prejudicial changes to their works.

13. Who owns the copyright in the works I create at RRU?

RRU has policies relating to copyright ownership and use of works created at RRU.  Under this policy, faculty, staff and students will generally own the copyright in works they create through teaching and research, with certain exceptions.

However, ownership can be affected by agreements with industry sponsors or joint authors, who may have an interest in the works which they have helped to create or fund.  Ultimately, ownership will depend on the facts of your situation and you should review the Royal Roads University Intellectual Policy and Procedures if you are unsure about the ownership of your work.

14. Where can I find more information on copyright for my thesis?

You will find lots of helpful information about working on your thesis, including copyright issues, in the Copyright Information for Thesis and Dissertation Publication guide on the RRU Library website. 

Text derived from Waterloo Copyright FAQ by University of Waterloo, licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada Licence.

Creative Commons Licence

This LibGuide was originally created by Melanie Wrobel.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.