Frequently Asked Questions
- What is copyright and what does it do?
- How does copyright operate at York?
- What is copyright infringement?
- What constitutes a “substantial” portion of a work?
- What is Fair Dealing and how does it work?
- What constitutes a “short excerpt” of a work?
- How long does copyright last?
- What is the “public domain”?
- How do I request permission to use a protected work?
- Can I make a copy of a protected work in an accessible format?
Instructors: Copyright and Classroom Use
- What types of works am I allowed to distribute to students as handouts?
- Can I play audio recordings in class?
- Can students perform a musical work in class?
- Can I show a film, video, or television program to students in class?
- Can I show YouTube videos or other works made available through the Internet to students in class?
Instructors: Copyright and Course Websites
- Can I post material from a protected work on my course website?
- Can I post a PDF of a journal article that I retrieved from the York Library’s eResources collection?
- Can I post a link to web content?
- Can I post an image or other media taken from a website on my course site? Can I embed internet content in my York LMS? Should I provide attribution on the LMS site?
- What is a “digital lock” and how does it relate to copyright infringement?
Instructors: Copyright and Printed Course Kits
Q: What is copyright and what does it do?
A: Copyright is a legal framework that protects creators of literary and artistic works by establishing economic and moral rights that enable creators to:
- control the publication and reproduction of their works;
- receive remuneration; and
- protect the integrity of their works.
Copyright protection exists as soon as a work is created. In Canada, there is no requirement that the work be registered or that the word "copyright" or the symbol © appear on the work. The work may be registered, if the creator desires, under a voluntary government registration system. Other countries may require registration and/or designations to be placed on the work to activate copyright protection.
The Copyright Act regulates the rights of creators and users of copyright in Canada.
What is Protected by Copyright?
Copyright law protects a wide range of works, including, for example, books, articles in journals or newspapers, films, videos, plays, scripts, paintings, drawings, maps, technical drawings, sculptures, computer programs, and songs. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.
Copyright law does not protect ideas, facts, news, information, names, or symbols. Only works that are original and fixed are protected by copyright. A work is considered "original" when it is the product of the author's own skill, judgment and creativity, has not been copied and demonstrates more than a trivial, mechanical level of skill and judgment. A work is "fixed" when it is produced onto any media, like paper or within a digital file.
You may express your ideas in writing or drawings and claim copyright in those works. However, the idea itself is not protected by copyright.
Q: How does copyright operate at York?
For copyright protected works that York University has not licensed we have also provided a set of Fair Dealing Guides. These documents provide guidance on copying that is covered under the fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act.
Q: What is copyright infringement?
A: It is an infringement of copyright to reproduce or communicate to the public all or any substantial part of a copyright-protected work without the permission of the copyright holder, unless copying or communicating the work falls within one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act.
Q: What constitutes a “substantial” portion of a work?
The term “substantial” is not defined in the Copyright Act. The courts have held that both the quality and the quantity of what is copied must be considered, with the quality being more important than the quantity. In considering what constitutes a substantial part a court will consider whether the alleged infringement has taken the distinct traits of the original work.
Q: What is Fair Dealing and how does it work at York?
A: Fair Dealing is the term given to an exception in the Copyright Act (section 29) that permits dealing with a copyright-protected work, without the need to arrange for permission from the copyright owner, under a set of specified purposes. Fair Dealing allows for the copying and communication of short excerpts of copyright protected works if the intended use passes two tests. First, the work must be used for an approved purpose: research, private study, criticism/review, news reporting, education, satire, or parody. Second, the dealing must be “fair.” A number of factors are used to determine fairness, including:
- the amount of the dealing
- the character of the dealing (what the work will be used for, how widely it will be distributed)
- alternatives to the dealing (whether a non-protected work could be used)
- the nature of the work
- the effect of the dealing on the work.
If a copyright-protected work is to be used for one of the purposes set out in the Fair Dealing provisions, and if the amount of the work to be used meets the definition of a short excerpt, then the use may qualify as fair dealing. Review York's Fair Dealing Guidelines and Application Guides for guidance on how to apply Fair Dealing to copying practices at York. If you have additional questions about material you would like to copy? Contact York's Copyright Office at email@example.com for more information or to request a copyright review of the content before you use it.
Q: What constitutes a "short excerpt" of a work at York?
York’s Fair Dealing Guidelines define a "short excerpt" as either:
10% or less of a Work, or no more than:
(a) one chapter from a book;
(b) a single article from a periodical;
(c) an entire artistic work (including a painting, print, photograph, diagram, drawing, map, chart and plan) from a Work containing other artistic works;
(d) an entire newspaper article or page;
(e) an entire single poem or musical score from a Work containing other poems or musical scores; or
(f) an entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary or similar reference work,
whichever is greater, provided that in each case, no more of the work is copied than is required in order to achieve the allowable purpose.
Q: How long does copyright last?
A: In Canada, copyright protection lasts for a period of 50 years following the end of the calendar year of the author of the work’s death. After this period has elapsed, the work generally becomes part of the public domain (no longer protected by copyright). The length of copyright protection varies in different countries. In the United States, copyright protection endures for a period of 70 years after the year of the author’s death. When you are dealing with a work while in Canada, Canadian copyright law applies.
Q: What is the public domain?
The public domain is comprised of works that are not protected by copyright, either because copyright protection has expired, or because the copyright holder has waived their rights to the work. You are free to copy or communicate copies of public domain works. However, it is important to remember that new editions of works that are public domain (e.g. a Shakespeare anthology) will contain their own copyright-protection (for footnotes, introductions,translations and so on).
Q: How do I request permission to use a protected work?
A: If a work is protected by copyright (i.e. it is not part of the public domain), and the intended use of the work is not covered by a York Library licence, Fair Dealing or another exception under the Copyright Act, then you must obtain permission from the copyright holder or its agent before using or reproducing it. If you wish to make use of material that requires permission from the rights holder, you may contact the rights holder directly to request the necessary copyright clearance. If you require assistance in determining whether your intended use requires permission from the rights holder, contact York's Copyright Support Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Can I make a copy of a protected work in an accessible format if I have a perceptual disability?
The Copyright Act contains an exception for the reproduction of works in alternate formats for the purpose of making them accessible to "persons with perceptual disabilities."
Section 32 of the Act specifies:
32.1. "It is not an infringement of copyright for a person with a perceptual disability, or a person acting at the request of such a person or for a non-profit organization acting for the benefit of such a person to
(a) make a copy or sound recording of a literary, musical, artistic or dramatic work, other than a cinematographic work, in a format specially designed for persons with a perceptual disability;
(b) translate, adapt or reproduce in sign language a literary or dramatic work, other than a cinematographic work, in a format specially designed for persons with a perceptual disability; or
(c) perform in public a literary or dramatic work, other than a cinematographic work, in sign language, either live or in a format specially designed for persons with a perceptual disability."
This exception does not authorize the production of large print books, nor does it apply "where the work or sound recording is commercially available in a format specially designed to meet the needs of any person" with a perceptual disability.
York University Libraries' Accessibility Services is located on the first floor of Scott Library just to the left of the Circulation Desk. It offers a range of services, including:
Copyright and Classroom Use – Instructors
Q: What types of works am I allowed to distribute to students as handouts?
A: Instructors can make and distribute copies of the following types of works for students:
- Materials accessed through York Library eResources that permit you to print and hand out the content under the terms of the licensing agreements (information on the limits of our licences can be found here)
- Short excerpts of copyright-protected works in accordance with the Fair Dealing Guides
- Works in the public domain or publishing using a licence that allows free distribution for classroom purposes
- Works for which you own the copyright
Q: Can I play audio recordings in class?
A: Yes, the Copyright Act allows instructors to play audio recordings before an audience of students on the premises of the university. However, the sound recording must not be taken from an infringing copy, or a copy that can be reasonably thought to be an infringing copy.
Q: Can students perform a musical work in class?
A: Yes, the Copyright Act permits the performance, primarily by students of the institution, of a musical work on the premises of the university for educational or training purposes before an audience consisting primarily of students and/or instructors.
Q: Can I show a film, video, or television program to students in class?
A: Yes, instructors can screen videos in class for an audience of students, however the copy used for the performance must not be an infringing copy (e.g. a burned DVD). The Copyright Act also permits instructors to show recordings of news broadcasts in class.
Q: Can I show YouTube videos or other works made available through the Internet to students in class?
A: Yes: section 30.04 of the Copyright Act permits an instructor to reproduce, communicate and perform in public for educational or training purposes of a copyright-protected work that is made available through the Internet. However, a number of conditions must be met:
- the instructor must provide the source, e.g. through a URL, and the name of the author, performer, record label or production company, as applicable;
- the copyright-protected work or the Internet site where it is posted is not protected by a digital lock that either restricts access to the work or restricts copying, communicating or performing in public the work;
- there is no clearly visible notice posted on the Internet site or on the work prohibits the act sought to be done;
- the educational institution or person acting under its authority did not know or should not have known that the work was made available through the Internet without the consent of the copyright holder.
Copyright and Moodle/Course websites - Instructors
Q: Can I post a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work that is not covered by a York Library licence on my course website?
A: Under certain conditions. You must use your password protected York course Learning Management System (LMS) such as Moodle or Canvas, and not a general access, personal website or blog, instructors may post a "short excerpt" of a copyright-protected work (i.e. a portion of a work that would qualify for Fair Dealing under the Fair Dealing Guidelines) to a course LMS, provided that the necessary Fair Dealing requirements are met. The course LMS, as well, must be:
- operated by or under the control of the university, with a 'password only' access - note that the Fair Dealing Guidelines do not apply to the posting of short excerpts to a wiki, a blog or a service offered by a third part such as Dropbox.
- password-protected on a secure server.
- is accessible only by students enroled in the course, unit or program of instruction.
Q: Can I post a PDF of a journal article that I retrieved from the York Library’s eResources collection?
Q: Can I post a link to web content?
Q: Can I post an image or other media taken from a website on my course site? Can I embed internet content in my York LMS? Should I provide attribution on the LMS site?
In some cases, yes. Although internet content is subject to copyright protection just as other works are, there is an exception in the Copyright Act that allows instructors to make copies of works that are available publicly on the Internet to distribute to students, and to perform the work in class , provided that:
- the material was posted legitimately;
- there is no visible notice prohibiting use of the content for educational or training purposes;
- there is no digital lock preventing access or copying; and
- the material is properly attributed.
Note:The embed feature can be found on many platforms, such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc. Once enabled it appears to grant a limited licence to copy and distribute the content. However, if someone uploads infringing content they have no legal right to grant that licence. The licence can only be granted by the rights holder or their representative. When evaluating internet content look for statements that they have the right to post the material either because they created the content or have obtained the permission from the creators or the company representing them. To determine if you are viewing a legitimate version of a copyrighted work start by looking at the creator’s official web site. They may sell their work directly or have links to representatives authorized to sell it on their behalf. If they do, it is an indication that the internet version is not from a legitimate source. If you have any doubts? Select other materials or contact the owner of the content.
You should always provide attribution to the works that are used in the LMS course site. Citations should include:
- Title of the work;
- Creator’s name;
- Source of the work (in the form of a URL to the source page);
- Any copyright information dictated by the rights holder (a watermark, including the home page URL, etc.); and
- When using a Creative Commons image include the licence information along with a link back to the CC documentation page.
Q: What is a “digital lock” and how does it relate to copyright infringement?
“Digital lock” is a term that describes any protective measure that restricts access to a copyright-protected work or limits the use that can made of such works. The Content Scrambling System (CSS) that restricts the ability to make a copy of a DVD is a well-known example. The Copyright Act prohibits the circumvention of digital locks to obtain access the copyright-protected works, even if the use would be otherwise permitted under Fair Dealing.
Copyright and printed course kits - Instructors
Q: Can I make course readings available to my students in a printed course pack or course kit?
A: Yes, the York University Bookstore accepts orders for printed course packs. Bookstore staff will assess the copyright requirements of your request and either produce the course pack on campus or send it to one of their licensed third-party vendors. There are other copy shops that provide comprehensive copyright clearance services and who can confirm full compliance with all copyright legislation for material submitted. If York University’s service or their third-party vendor is unable to produce your course pack these copy shops may be able to assist. Here is a list of local copy shops that may be able to help you.