Copyright in the classroom

For more in-depth information and the University of Windsor policies and procedures on Copyright, please visit the Campus Copyright Information page. For any further questions, please email:

Copyright Basics

The Fair Dealing Exception

Using copyrighted work

Using Images and Audio/Video

Copyright and Blackboard


Copyright Basics

What is Copyright?

Copyright literally means “the right to copy” and grants copyright owners the sole and exclusive right to reproduce, perform, or publish their work. These rights give copyright holders control over the use of their creations, and an ability to benefit, monetarily and otherwise, from the exploitation of their works. Copyright also protects the reputation of creators and the rights of performers.

In order to gain copyright protection, a work must be “original,” however, “original” is not strictly defined in the Copyright Act and can have many implications, including creativity and intellectual ability.

A work must also meet the requirement for “fixation,” meaning that it must be “expressed in some material form, capable of identification and having a more or less permanent endurance.”

Copyright is part of a larger body of law, called “intellectual property,” which also includes patent law; trademark law; industrial design; confidential information and trade secrets; and integrated circuit topography protection.

The word “intellectual” is used to distinguish it from “physical” property. Intellectual property law refers to and protects the intangible or “intellectual” nature of an object. Physical property law protects the tangible or physical aspect of an object.

For example, there is both an intellectual and physical property component to a book. The physical component of the book is the object itself, which you can hold in your hand. The intellectual component of the book is the words that appear on the page and the expression of any ideas contained in those words. The physical and intellectual components of any creations are separate. By owning the physical or intellectual property in a creation, you do not necessarily own the other sort of property in it. For example: You may own a book, read it, display it on a coffee table, and even lend it to a friend. However, you may not do anything that only the copyright owner has the exclusive right to do, like reproduce it or translate it.

What does copyright cover?

Copyright protects literary, artistic, dramatic and musical 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.

Copyright does NOT protect ideas, facts, or dates. Copyright protects the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves; ideas are part of the public domain. You may follow an idea set out in a book or an instructional video, or create work based on the same idea, without violating copyright.

  • Every original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic work
  • Artistic work
  • Architectural work
  • Choreographic work
  • Cinematographic work
  • Collective work
  • Compilation
  • Computer program
  • Dramatic work
  • Engravings
  • Lectures
  • Literary work
  • Musical work
  • Performance
  • Photograph
  • Plate
  • Sculpture
  • Work of joint authorship
  • Communicaiton signal
  • Performer’s performance
  • Sound recording

How do I know if something is protected by copyright?

Copyright is automatically granted for any type of the above works and continues for 50 years after the author’s death, though this can depend on the type of work and where you want to use it. When you want to use a particular work in Canada, 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.

For more information about duration of copyright protection in Canada see the Government of Canada’s About Copyright publication.

Important: the copyright symbol © is not required for a work to be protected.

What rights does a copyright owner have?

Copyright gives the copyright owner a number of legal rights, such as the right to copy and translate a work and the right to communicate a work to the public by telecommunication. These rights are qualified by certain exceptions which balance the copyright owner’s interests with the public interest in allowing use of works for purposes such as education and research.

How long does copyright last?

How long copyright lasts depends on which country you are in. In Canada, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author, plus 50 years. By contrast, in the U.S. and Europe, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, though it can differ depending on factors such as the type of work, the manner of publication and the date of creation. Use of a work within Canada is governed by the Canadian rules for the duration of copyright protection.

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

Moral rights are additional rights held by authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They consist of rights that protect the integrity of a work and the reputation of its author. The right of attribution is the right to always be identified as the author of a work or to remain anonymous. The right of integrity is the right not to have a work modified or associated with goods or services in a way that is prejudicial to the author’s reputation. These rights are important for authors to ensure they get appropriate recognition for their works and for prohibiting any prejudicial changes to their works.


The Fair Dealing Exception

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

Fair dealing is a user’s right in copyright law permitting use, or "dealing" with, a copyright-protected work without permission or payment of copyright royalties. The fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act allows you to use other people’s copyright material for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire or parody provided that what you do with the work is "fair". Whether something is "fair" will depend on the circumstances. Courts will normally consider factors such as:

  • 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 more guidance on how to apply the fair dealing factors to your particular circumstances, please review our Fair Dealing flowchart.

If, having taken into account these considerations, the use can be characterized as "fair" and it was for the purpose of:

  • research
  • private study
  • criticism
  • review
  • news reporting
  • education
  • satire or parody

then it will fall within the fair dealing exception and will not require permission from the copyright owner. In addition, if your purpose is criticism, review, or news summary you must also mention the source and author of the work for it to be fair dealing. Note: for further clarity and additional information about limits on the amount and nature of copying permitted under fair dealing please see the Copyright Guidelines and Flowchart.

Please note as well; it’s important to distinguish "fair dealing" from "fair use". The fair use exception in U.S. copyright law is NOT the equivalent of fair dealing in Canadian law. The wording of the two exceptions is different. It is important to make sure that you consider the Canadian law and aren’t relying on U.S. information.

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. See the Copyright Guidelines and Flowchart for details about what may be as copied as fair dealing by instructors.

What is meant by "public domain"? How do I know if something is in the public domain?

The term "public domain" refers to works in which copyright has expired.

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

And don't assume that everything you find on the internet is in the public domain just because it is publicly available. Most of the material you find online is protected by copyright, however, you may nonetheless be able to use it for educational purposes because many uses will be covered by fair dealing or the exception for educational use of material publicly available through the Internet.

Note: Some copyright owners have made clear declarations that certain uses of their copyright works may be made without permission or payment. The Reproduction of Federal Law Order, for example, permits anyone, without charge or request for permission, to reproduce Canadian laws and decisions of federally-constituted courts and administrative tribunals in Canada.


Using Copyrighted Work

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 who can give you permission (in the form of a licence) on behalf of the copyright owner to use their work. So, for example, if you want to use music and your use doesn’t fall within any of the Copyright Act’s exceptions, you may be able to obtain permission from copyright collectives such as the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) or Re:Sound that administer copyright in music.

But 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’ll 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 webpage. 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 will suffice. It is not advisable to rely on verbal permission. You should also keep a file record of who gave the permission, what was permitted, the date, and how to contact the person who gave the permission.

To help acquire copyright, or if you have any questions, email

Can I make copies of copyright-protected works to hand out to students in class? Can I include copies of another person's images and materials in my PowerPoint presentations?

Yes. Under fair dealing you may make copies of another person’s works and hand them out to students enrolled in your course. Under fair dealing you may also include another person’s work, including images, in your PowerPoint presentations that you display to students enrolled in your course. In both cases, you must adhere to the amount that may be copied under fair dealing. Please see the Fair Dealing Advisory for the copying limits.

I've come across a recent journal article that I want to give out to my students. Can I photocopy it and hand it out to them?

Yes. The Fair Dealing Guildelines permits the copying of an entire journal article. Copies may be handed out to the students enrolled in your course or you may scan and post a copy of the article to Blackboard.

Keep in mind that allowable use of e-journal articles is governed by a license, either from a subscription from the library, or other..

Can students include copyright materials in their assignments and presentations?

Generally yes. Since fair dealing now includes education, students may include limited amounts of material in their assignments and presentations. See the Copyright Guidelines for details about amounts allowable under fair dealing.

Are there any databases of copyright materials that I can use for free without worrying about copyright?

Yes. There's a wealth of material out there which is either in the public domain or available under what is known as Creative Commons licensing, which generally means the work is available for free, subject to certain limited conditions, such as non-commercial use only and acknowledgment of the author.

Visit the pages for Open Educational Resources (OER) and the Creative Commons content directories,which list audio, video, image and text materials available under Creative Commons licensing, for places to start looking. For public domain material, simply search online for "public domain" and the type of material you’re interested in. Some useful sites include: Project Gutenberg (the largest collection of copyright-free books online) and Wikipedia, which has an entire page dedicated to public domain resources.

Do I need to ask permission to link to a website?

Content on the web is copyrighted in the same way as print and other formats, even if there is no copyright symbol or notice. Linking directly to the web page containing the content you wish to use is almost always permissible, although you should check the website's "Terms of Use", "Legal Notices" or similar section to ensure linking is not prohibited. You should always include the full details of the author, copyright owner and source of the materials by the link. This will avoid any suggestion that the website is your own material or that your website is somehow affiliated with the other site.

Regardless of whether you obtain (or do not need) permission to link to a website, if you have reason to believe that the website contains content posted without the permission of the copyright owner, you should avoid linking to it.


Using Audio/Video

Is it okay to use images or other material from the internet for educational purposes?

Materials on the Internet are treated the same under copyright law as any other copyright materials, so if you want to use them, they either have to fall within one of the Copyright Act's exceptions (such as fair dealing or the educational use of the Internet exception), or be open access or in the public domain. If what you want to use isn't from an open access or public domain source and does not fall into one of the Act's exceptions you will have to obtain permission from the copyright owner. Note: the person who posted the material may not be the copyright owner and may not have the right to grant you permission to use the material. If this is the case, you should not use the material unless you can identify and obtain the copyright owner's permission.

Even if your use is non-infringing under the Copyright Act, your use may represent a breach of a website's "Terms of Use", "Legal Notices" or similar section. You should check those sections to confirm what conditions apply to use of the website's material, and whether additional consents are required.

Can I play music in class?

Yes! The Copyright Act allows you to play a sound recording or live radio broadcasts in class as long as it is for educational purposes, not for profit, on University premises, before an audience consisting primarily of students. However, if you want to use music for non-educational purposes, for example, for background music at a conference or in an athletic facility, a licence must be obtained from the copyright collectives the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) and Re:Sound

Can I play videos in class?

You may play videos in class in the following circumstances:

  • You may show a film or other cinematographic work in the classroom as long as the work is not an infringing copy, the film or work was legally obtained, and you do not circumvent a digital lock to access the film or work.
  • If you want to show a television news program in the classroom, under the Copyright Act, educational institutions (or those acting under their authority) may copy television news programs or news commentaries and play them in class.
  • You may perform a work available through the Internet, e.g. YouTube, videos, except under the following circumstances:
    • The work is protected by digital locks preventing their performance
    • A clearly visible notice prohibiting educational use is posted on the website or on the work itself.
    • You have reason to believe that the work available on the internet is in violation of the copyright owner’s rights.

If you want to show a video in class and need assistance in obtaining video programming, please contact Media Resources for more information.


Copyright and Blackboard

Can I post copies of copyright-protected works to Blackboard? Can I email copies to students enrolled in my courses?

Yes, you can do both if you adhere to the amount that may be copied under fair dealing. Please see the Fair Dealing Advisory for the copyright limits.

Note however that in some instances a copyright-protected work is made available under a digital license that prohibits certain uses such as posting an electronic article to Blackboard.  Any such restrictions will take precedence over fair dealing. If you have any questions, please contact

Is there any difference between posting something on my own website vs. posting something on Blackboard?

Yes. Posting something on your own website means you are making the work available world-wide. Wide distribution tends towards the conclusion that the dealing is not “fair” and such uses may not be covered by any University licences. By contrast, Blackboard is a password protected, secure website accessible only by students enrolled in university courses. In some cases, posting material on Blackboard will be covered by one of the University’s electronic subscriptions. The key thing to remember is just because you may post a copyright-protected work to Blackboard doesn’t mean you have permission to post the work on your own personal website.

May I upload a PDF of a journal article I obtained through Leddy to Blackboard?

In some instances the journal article is made available under a license that prohibits posting to Blackboard. Consult for information about such restrictions.

The licences for some e-journals provided by the Library allow instructors to upload articles into secure course management systems such as Blackboard. While there may be good reason to upload articles to Blackboard, it is important to consider that doing so may mean that your students do not have the most recent version of the article. It is not unusual for publishers to make corrections or changes, such as adding supplementary material, to articles after initial publication. If such changes are made after a copy has been uploaded they will not be reflected in that copy. A direct link is the best way to ensure access to the most recent version of an article. Linking to the article also allows the Library to track use and obtain data about the importance of a particular journal to the campus.

You are free to create a direct link yourself, or you might want the Library to do this for you through the Access Services Course Reserves. As well as saving you time, Library staff will ensure that authentication is taken care of so that your students don’t need to remember to log-in to the Library’s proxy server before going into Blackboard. They will also prepare a “persistent” URL. The publisher’s URL for many articles can change from day to day; a persistent URL will ensure that your students get to the right articles quickly and without frustration.

Even in cases where uploading and linking to articles in Blackboard is permitted by library subscribed licences, it is important to remember that licences generally do not permit you to upload to a website, or create links on a website, that is not part of the University’s secure network, and that is open to the world at large. None of the licences that the Library has with publishers allows for uploading to, or linking from, websites that allow access without authentication.

May I scan a print journal article or a book chapter into a PDF and post it to Blackboard?

As long as you adhere to the amounts that may be copied under fair dealing you may scan and post it on Blackboard. See the Fair Dealing Guidelines for the copying limits. It’s important to note that fair dealing does not allow you to scan material and add it to a website unless that website is password protected (e.g. Blackboard) and restricted to students enrolled in your course. If you want to scan a copyright protected work for inclusion on an open website, you will need to obtain permission.

I gave a PowerPoint presentation in class which includes figures, charts, diagrams, and other images from a textbook. Can I post it on Blackboard? I'll be sure to cite where the figures came from.

As long as you adhere to the amounts that may be copied under fair dealing you may post charts and diagrams from textbooks, or other works, on Blackboard. See the Copyright Guidelines and Flowchart) for the University of Windsor's recommendations. It’s important to note that if you wish to post such material to a website that website must be password protected or otherwise restricted to students enrolled in your course.

Please note that just because you acknowledge the author and source of a work doesn’t mean you won’t be liable for copyright infringement. Acknowledging the source is no defense if the way in which you’ve used the work is not permitted under the Copyright Act.


*Some information on this page borrowed under the Creative Commons licensed pages from the University of Waterloo.