Copyright basics

Copyright symbolThis guide provides information about Copyright in the context of research and education. It does not provide legal advice, but it will assist members of the NLC community in making decisions based on a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities according to the Canadian Copyright Act.

It is everyone’s responsibility to comply with copyright agreements and legislation.

NLC copyright compliance policy documents (also available on staff MYNLC):

PDF iconNLC copyright compliance 2014.pdf
PDF iconNLC copyright compliance - Fair dealing 2014.pdf
PDF iconNLC copyright compliance - Permission 2014.pdf

Access Copyright Opt-Out

Effective August 2012, Northern Lakes College opted-out of any agreement with Access Copyright and will administer its own copyright procedures. Many other Canadian universities and colleges made the same decision following the advice of the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC). This decision to opt-out was made in light of the Supreme Court of Canada decisions of July 12, 2013 that addressed fair dealing and the passing of the Copyright Modernization Act in June 2012.

The copyright professionals in post-secondary institutions across Canada are generous and are willing to share the copyright documentation they have created. Resources from the following institutions were used in creating this guide:

  • Red Deer College Copyright LibGuide
  • Camosun College Copyright LibGuide
  • University of the Fraser Valley Copyright LibGuide
  • University of Waterloo Copyright website
  • Bow Valley College

If you still have questions regarding copyright, please contact the library.

Learn more

Canadian Copyright Act: The complete Act, as found on the Department of Justice website.

Copyright Matters!: Information about copyright as it relates to the use of resources on school premises. Published by the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada (4th edition).

Copyright Regulations: The Regulations enforced under the Copyright Act, from the Department of Justice website. (video)

Copyrights: Information about copyright in Canada, from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (Industry Canada).

Creative Commons Canada: Information about the Creative Commons organization, resources and licenses.

Opening Up Copyright: Instructional Modules on copyright from the University of Alberta's Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Copyright Training for Instructors and Saff

We know that copyright is intimidating. But knowledge is power! Use this great training package from CARL (Canadian Academic and Research Libraries) to learn all about copyright. 

These 7 modules include a video, transcript, and some helpful self-quiz questions. You can do all modules in one sitting or break it up. The approximate time for all 7 module is about 40 minutes. Once you are done, enter our contest for the chance to win a prize!

Click here for the CARL Open Copyright course!

Attribution and use permissions:

“Copyright Open Educational Resources” by CARL (2020) is licensed under CC-BY-NC 4.0. Material may be shared for noncommercial purposes with the following considerations:

Copyright FAQs
  1. Who do I talk to at NLC Library if I have a copyright question?
  2. What does copyright cover?
  3. How long does copyright last?
  4. What are copyright owner’s rights?
  5. How can faculty encourage copyright awareness in the classroom?
  6. What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?
  7. Does fair dealing cover teaching?


Who do I talk to at NLC Library if I have a copyright question?

Copyright Officer, NLC Library
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 780-849-8670

What does copyright cover?

Copyright is a legal framework that protects creators of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works, as well as sound recordings, performances and communication signals. This encompasses a wide range of formats including books, articles, CDs, DVDs, software, and websites. 

Copyright protection exists as soon as a work is created.

How long does copyright last?

The terms of copyright protection apply differently in various countries. Currently in Canada, copyright protection generally applies to a work for the life of the creator, plus 50 years, however in 2022 this will increase to life plus 70 years. In Europe and the United States, copyright protection generally lasts for the life of the creator, plus 70 years. After the copyright expires, a work enters the Public Domain, although copyright protection may still apply to more recent editions, arrangements or adaptations of the work. Also don't assume that everything you find on the Internet is in the public domain just becuase it is publicly available. 

For more information about duration of copyright protection in Canada see the Government of Canada's About Copyright and the Canadian Public Domain Flowchart.

Use of a work in Canada is governed by the Canadian rules for the duration of the copyright protection.

What are copyright owners' rights?

Copyright owners have a number of legal rights, including the right to copy and translate a work and the right to communicate a work to the public by telecommunication. Certain exceptions apply to these rights that are meant to balance copyright holders' interests with broader public interests, primarily the use of works for purposes such as teaching and research.

How can faculty encourage copyright awareness in the classroom?

Talk about copyright, plagiarism and intellectual property in your classes.

Include copyright information on your course syllabus. The following is a sample paragraph you can use or adapt:

Print and electronic materials are protected by copyright legislation. It is your responsibility to become aware of the legal uses of copyright-protected materials and to ensure that your use of these materials complies with copyright obligations. Information can be found on the RDC Library website.

Encourage and expect copyright-friendly standards for student work. Copyright-friendly assignments will:

  • cite all print and graphical/multimedia items (e.g. using APA, MLA, or Chicago)
  • show copyright holders' information on multimedia objects = ©
  • leave sufficient time for permission-seeking
  • include attached permission documentation
  • use alternatives to copyright-protected multimedia:
  • use software to create original images/sounds
  • take original photos
  • instead of embedding a video, provide a link
  • instead of "borrowing" information from a website, provide a link
  • use copyright-friendly multimedia 
  • remember to read the fine print before using any material

Remind students that, although fair dealing or educational exceptions may grant the right to reproduce without permission, they do not grant the right to adapt or modify materials, nor to change the format of materials.

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

Fair dealing permits the use of a copyright-protected work without permission from the copyright owner or the payment of copyright royalties. The fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act allows you to use other people's copyright material for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education (full detail of the education exceptions can be viewed in sections  29.4 to 29.9 of the Copyright Act), satire or parody providing the use is "fair."

Whether the use is "fair" will depend on the circumstances. Some criteria to consider to determine if the use is fair:

  • the purpose of the dealing (Is it commercial or research / educational?)
  • the amount of the dealing (How much was copied?)
  • the character of the dealing (What was done with the work? Was it an isolated use or an ongoing, repetitive use? How widely was it distributed?)
  • alternatives to the dealing (Was the work necessary for the end result? Could the purpose have been achieved without using the work?)
  • the nature of the work (Is there a public interest in its dissemination? Was it previously unpublished?)
  • the effect of the dealing on the original work (Does the use compete with the market of the original work?)

It is not necessary that your use meet 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 further clarity and additional information about limits on the amount and nature of copying permitted under fair dealing in certain contexts, please see the Fair Dealing Guidelines prepared by legal counsel for ACCC (Association of Canadian Community Colleges).

Does fair dealing cover teaching?

Yes. While fair dealing doesn’t specifically mention teaching it does mention education. The Supreme Court of Canada has also ruled that a teacher may make copies of short excerpts of copyright-protected works and distribute them to students as part of classroom instruction without prior request from the student under the fair dealing exception.

In the classroom

Please see the COPYRIGHT MATTERS! document, prepared by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, the Canadian School Boards Association, and the Canadian Teachers' Federation.


When to request permission

If you are a Northern Lakes College faculty member, staff member, or student, and you are concerned that your use of a work is not covered by Fair Dealing Guidelines, you need to request permission from the copyright holder to use the work. Use the permission form available on this page.

If you have any questions, please contact the library.

Permissions: Process and form

Provides direction for applying for copyright permission when fair dealing guidelines are exceeded:
PDF iconPermission process

Use this form when requesting permission to copy from copyright holder
FilePermission form


Fair dealing overview

The fair dealing provision in the Copyright Act permits use of a copyright-protected work without permission from the copyright owner or the payment of copyright royalties. To qualify for fair dealing, two tests must be passed. 

First, the "dealing" must be for a purpose stated in the Copyright Act: research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire, and parody. Educational use of a copyright-protected work passes the first test.

The second test is that the dealing must be "fair." In landmark decisions in 2004 and in 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada provided guidance as to what this test means in schools and post-secondary educational institutions. 

These guidelines apply fair dealing in non-profit K-12 schools and post-secondary educational institutions and provide reasonable safeguards for the owners of copyright-protected works in accordance with the Copyright Act and the Supreme Court decisions.

Fair dealing guidelines
  1. Teachers, instructors, professors and staff members in non-profit educational institutions may communicate and reproduce, in paper or electronic form, short excerpts from a copyright-protected work for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire and parody.
  2. Copying or communicating short excerpts from a copyright-protected work under these Fair Dealing Guidelines for the purpose of news reporting, criticism or review should mention the source and, if given in the source, the name of the author or creator of the work.
  3. A single copy of a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work may be provided or communicated to each student enrolled in a class or course
    • as a class handout
    • as a posting to a learning- or course-management system that is password protected or otherwise restricted to students of a school or post-secondary educational institution
    • as part of a course pack.
  4. A short excerpt means:
    • up to 10% of a copyright-protected work (including a literary work, musical score, sound recording, and an audiovisual work)
    • one chapter from a book
    • a single article from a periodical
    • an entire artistic work (including a painting, print, photograph, diagram, drawing, map, chart, and plan) from a copyright-protected work containing other artistic works
    • an entire newspaper article or page
    • an entire single poem or musical score from a copyright-protected work containing other poems or musical scores
    • an entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary or similar reference work
  5. 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.
  6. Copying or communicating that exceeds the limits in these Fair Dealing Guidelines may be referred to a supervisor or other person designated by the educational institution for evaluation. An evaluation of whether the proposed copying or communication is permitted under fair dealing will be made based on all relevant circumstances.
  7. Any fee charged by the educational institution for communicating or copying a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work must be intended to cover only the costs of the institution, including overhead costs.
Copyright evaluator

Use this link from Bow Valley College to determine if your use falls under fair dealing guidelines. (Use the STUDENT entry point for both student and instructor evaluations at NLC.)


Please see the Open Resources Guide for information on open access resources for instructors:

Open Resources


Style Guides

Please see the Citations Guide for information on citing your copyrighted sources in APA, MLA, and CMS styles.