Copyright for Students

The Copyright Act provides exclusive rights to copyright holders as well as provides rights for users of copyrighted works. Copyright covers the copying or communication of a work or a substantial part of a work (such as a novel, poem, song, film, website and software). Permission is required to copy or distribute a copyrighted work, unless the use is covered by an exception in the Copyright Act, such as fair dealing (similar to US fair use). Any work that you produce is automatically protected by copyright, regardless of the quality of the work or how important, as long as it is original and was created with any level of skill and judgement. Review the Copyright Basics section for a fuller description of copyright. 

There are many ways that you may use copyrighted works everyday to engage in research, study, discussion or to investigate your interests, whether or not these are scholarly. 

Copying for Research and Personal Use

Individuals may copy a substantial portion of a copyrighted work or in some cases a whole work for their personal use for the purposes of research and private study without permission under the fair dealing provision of the Copyright Act. The copying must qualify as fair in order for this exception to apply. Review the Copyright for Personal Use section for an overview of fair dealing and other instances where individuals may use copyrighted works without needing to get permission. If you are unsure if fair dealing applies, call the MacEwan University Copyright Specialist for advice.

Using Copyrighted Material in an Assignment or Published Article

You may copy portions from copyrighted works in order to illustrate a point that you are making in an assignment, a scholarly work, article, or blog posting (to name a few contexts) without the permission of the copyright owner. You are required to cite the source of what you use. In many cases, the use of such excerpts would be considered "insubstantial" and not create a copyright issue. In other cases, you may be able to rely on fair dealing (similar to fair use in the US) 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 instances where a significant portion of a work or an entire work is used, such as with a photograph, where using a portion of the work would not be feasible. As long as the context of your use supports the amount used, there would be a strong case for it being fair dealing. The fair dealing exception does not change and still applies if your work is published or if fair dealing excerpts are used in a thesis or dissertation. A publisher may choose to get permission for extracts prior to publication. 

Multimedia Assignments and Presentations

Fair dealing will allow 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 provision of the Copyright Act, described below, will ensure you can 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. 

Uploading Video to Kaltura in Blackboard

Kaltura is a platform in Blackboard that allows you to share video with the people in your course. All files uploaded to Blackboard need to comply with Canadian copyright law. In many cases, you will be able to rely on fair dealing to upload clips to Kaltura. Clips that are up to 10% of a larger video work will very likely be fair dealing if they are shared for a purpose such as education or research. In many cases videos that exceed 10% will also qualify. Consult with the university Copyright Specialist if you need to upload a larger video. 

Self-created video, including videos that use parts of copyrighted text, images, video clips and music, can be uploaded in Kaltura. In most cases fair dealing would support the use of these excerpts. In any case, the Non-commercial user-generated content exception will allow you to post such a video in Kaltura or on the web. See the details on the exception below.

Non-Commercial User Generated Content

A new copyright exception was added to the Copyright Act in 2012. Under the Non-commercial user-generated content exception, the use of copyright-protected works in a new original copyright-protected work created by an individual, solely for non-commercial purposes, does not infringe copyright. The new work can be distributed to the public without infringing copyright. The exception applies as long as certain conditions are met: 

  • the source is mentioned, if it is reasonable to do so - including the author, performer, maker or broadcaster.

  • the source is (or there is reasonable grounds to believe it is) a non-infringing copy.

  • the use of the work does not have a substantial adverse effect, financial or otherwise, on the existing work - including that the new work does not replace the existing work. 

This exception allows for uses of copyright-protected works in a new context. It is commonly described as the "mashup" or "YouTube" provision as it allows an individual to use samples of copyrighted audio and video in a home video and then post it to the open web without infringing copyright. The provision is not specific to audio and video, however. It is open ended enough that it could apply in any situation where works are used by an individual in a new work for non-commercial purposes. Students can benefit from this provision as they are able to post multimedia assignments that incorporate copyrighted works to the web. 

Even with this legal coverage, posts may be taken down. Sites such as YouTube and Facebook are subject to U.S. copyright law and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA allows copyright owners to demand any U.S. based website to take down content that they claim infringes copyright. U.S. law requires that the content be removed immediately. There are options to have the content reposted. YouTube, for example, offers the opportunity to request that content to be reinstated. This can be done using the fair use provision of US copyright law. The allowance for transformative uses of works under US fair use law matches closely with the Canadian user-generated content provision to allow the video or other content to continue to be posted. See here about the process for making a request.

Student Portfolios

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 the conditions of the provision above. In most cases, this would be considered a non-commercial activity. 

Recording Lectures 

Under copyright law, the instructor and any presenters in your class own copyright in the “performance” that is the lecture. Any copy, live stream or broadcast of the lecture would belong to the presenter. You should ask permission to record a lecture before doing so. Your class notes, assuming they are not a verbatim record of the lecture, belong to you.

Sharing Lecture Notes 

Learning materials authored and provided by your instructor such as class notes and lecture PowerPoints have copyright that belongs to your instructor. You can share amounts appropriate under fair dealing, keeping in mind that the more you share and the broader the audience, the less fair the sharing will be. You should not share full copies of these works to a broad audence, such as by posting them to the web or offering them through class materials sharing sites, without the permission of the instructor.