Sharing Works for Research and Scholarship

Sharing copyrighted documents by email or on cloud platforms, such as Google Drive or Dropbox, is now commonplace. Do such distributions infringe copyright? Fair dealing will apply to most scenarios as long as the amounts shared and the size of the distribution is limited. Of course, one way to avoid copyright issues is to share links (such as DOIs or web links) where possible rather than providing a copy. 

The copying or communication by MacEwan University faculty and staff of excerpts from copyrighted works and in some cases entire works (following the amounts outlined in paragraph 4 the MacEwan University Fair Dealing Guidelines) for the purposes of research, private study, news reporting, criticism, review, education, parody and satire to each member of a scholarly or research group with a limited number of members who share one or more of these purposes is likely to qualify as fair dealing (see the Copyright Basics section for more information on fair dealing). These purposes are to be given a large and liberal interpretation. Research, for example, doesn't need to be a formal scholarly enterprise, but may simply be sharing a copy of an article out of an interest in the topic. A "research group" can be any group of people with a shared research interest. Any topic, scholarly or not, can qualify.

Sharing copies of excerpts or a limited number of articles with a small group that consists primarily of students, faculty and staff of MacEwan University or with a limited number of colleagues at other institutions, such as via email or a cloud sharing service, would also likely be fair dealing. 

The larger the group that is part of a distribution, the less fair the sharing will be. Always take reasonable measures to limit the size of the audience for your distribution. 

The Fair Dealing Guideline amounts are very likely to be fair in these contexts. It is possible that amounts that exceed the Guidelines will still qualify for fair dealing. The determination of the fairness of a copying or communication of a work under fair dealing is dependent on an assessment of all the factors in a given situation and the application of the six-factor fairness test provided by the Supreme Court in 2004. Contact the Copyright Specialist for advice or submit a request for a fair dealing assessment. Requests will be reviewed and a determination made based on all relevant information. 

Contact Scott Day, Copyright Specialist, 780-497-4277, or the Copyright and Licensing Office at 

Single copies of excerpts from copyrighted works and in some cases entire works for personal research and private study are likely to qualify as fair dealing. Review the Copyright for Personal Use section for more information. Distribution of copies to students in a class or course should follow the MacEwan University Fair Dealing Guidelines.