College of the North Atlantic is committed to offering high-quality courses that respect the intellectual property of others.
What is Copyright?
If you invent or create something, it’s considered your intellectual property. Intellectual property law encompasses two areas - industrial property (which applies primarily to inventions and patents) and copyright.
Copyright law is the component of intellectual property law that deals primarily with literary and artistic works. This includes (but is not limited to) music, books and other text forms, paintings, photography, sculpture, film, websites, and computer programs.
Copyright refers to the legal right to reproduce, publish or sell a literary work and is considered the sole right of the creator or author. Copyright law is designed to protect the owner of a work against unfair use, such as copying, re-distributing or otherwise using the work without permission. Copyright ownership is automatically conferred upon creation. A work does not need to have the copyright symbol applied to it to be protected under the law.
Source: Adapted from materials at World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
The Canadian Copyright Act and Fair Dealing
The Canadian Copyright Act makes it clear that copyright conveys the sole right to produce, reproduce, perform or publish a work to the creator of the work. Exceptions allowed under the Act are referred to as Fair Dealing. Education, research and private study are just three of the exceptions permitted under Fair Dealing.
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding if the use you plan to make of copyrighted content meets fair dealing requirements including; the purpose and character of the copying, the proportion and importance of the copied portion of the work, the availability of alternatives to the work, whether the work is published or unpublished, and whether or not copying will compete with the commercial market of the original work.
Source: Adapted from materials on Fair Dealing Requirements at UBC
Using Copyrighted Works for Educational Purposes
Most of us instinctively recognize that books and novels are vehicles for holding the author’s (copyrighted) creation. We understand that when we purchase a book, whether it is a novel or a textbook, we purchase only the right to read it. We have no rights to copy, change or sell the author’s work. CDs and DVDs are to be treated the same as books. The CD or DVD is only the container for the media it contains. We purchase the right to enjoy the contents of the CD/DVD - but we have no rights to copy, change or sell its contents. We should similarly think of the internet and all of its sites as a giant container that holds text, images, audio, video, apps, and more. It is not a copyright free zone.
Often, we get a bit confused when we see things seemingly freely available on the internet. We can click and download them with ease. Sometimes we’re even invited to download them. However, we can’t re-use those items unless we take the proper measures to ensure we are not violating intellectual property ethics and copyright law.
If a work is in the public domain, it is not restricted by copyright and is free to use without permission. If a work is not in the public domain, then you must seek permission to use the material through one of the following ways:
- Creative Commons (CC) licensing.
Individuals and organizations that support CC licensing will have a CC licence displayed on their work describing exactly how it may be used. To get a better understanding of how Creative Commons Licensing works, watch the video, Creative Commons: Get Creative
- Creative Commons License: Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 1.0
- Learn more by visiting Creative Commons: About the Licenses
- 'Fair dealing' or other exceptions to the Copyright Act for
For example, exception 30.04 allows instructors to reproduce internet materials for educational use, if:
- you acknowledge the author and the source website,
- the material appears to have been posted legitimately (i.e. with the consent of the copyright owner),
- there is no clearly visible notice or link to such a notice prohibiting you from using the material for educational purposes, and
- tthere is no technological protection measure preventing you from accessing or copying the material (e.g. it’s not on a password protected
- Written permission from the copyright holder.
If you want to use a substantial portion of a work and are unsure if you're going beyond the reasonable application of 'fair dealing', it is best to request permission from the copyright holder (organization or individual) in writing. Once written permission has been received, materials may be used as long as they are properly sourced and attributed.
See CNA’s copyright poster [PDF] for a visual summary of ways to avoid copyright infringement. Another great resource is the publication Copyright Matters! Some Key Questions & Answers for Teachers, 3rd edition.
Other Copyright Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
On this page, you will find answers to some of the questions most commonly asked by other course developers and facilitators.
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I have been contracted to develop an online course for Distributed Learning. Who is responsible for ensuring copyright clearance?
As a developer, you are responsible for ensuring that all material provided has been copyright cleared and for obtaining permissions to use materials that are not your own work. Written permission should be forwarded to the Instructional Designer assigned to work with you for inclusion in the course file folder.
Does ‘fair dealing’ mean that I can copy, for educational use, an entire work and distribute it in my classroom or through a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Desire2Learn (D2L)?
No, you can’t copy in full any commercially available work and distribute it to your students. (Section 29.4 (1 - 3)
Can I copy part of a copyrighted work (a short excerpt) and distribute it in my classroom or in my online course without obtaining written permission?
Yes, as long as you cite the author and source. Generally, you can excerpt up to 10% of a work or no more than one chapter of a book, one article from a periodical, an entire newspaper article or page, a single poem or musical score from a work containing other such works, an entire artistic work from a work containing other artistic works, or an entire entry from a reference work.
Note: Excerpts may be distributed to students in the classroom or within a password protected online course. Excerpts must be deleted within 30 days of your students receiving their final course evaluations. Students must also delete their copies within 30 days of receiving their final evaluations.
No, not if your intention is to circumvent copyright.
Can I contact the publisher of my textbook directly to request permission to excerpt portions of the text?
Yes, you must receive permission in writing and forward it to the Instructional Designer working on your course.
I have some old images that I’ve been using forever. I don’t remember where I got them from. Can I still post them to my online course?
No, not without obtaining permission. All images, text, audio or video posted to D2L must be cited. If, after making every effort to track down the original source, you still cannot find it, we suggest replacing it with another suitable image, preferrably one licensed under Creative Commons, which is properly cited. It is always a good idea to keep a record of the source of all your material.
Yes. Unless the material is in the public domain or is clearly licensed with a Creative Commons license, you should hyperlink them to avoid problems. If the material is a critical part of your course (for example, a video that is used as the basis for discussion, you should obtain written permission to download and include the material in your course.)
A digital lock is a technological protection measure used to protect digital content. For example, many DVD movies have digital locks that prevent copying. Breaking a digital lock constitutes a violation of the copyright act.
According to the terms stated in your contract, you agree to transfer all copyrights and moral rights with respect to the materials produced in the development of the course you are contracted to complete.
You can use the Search feature from the Creative Commons website to located CC licensed works. You can also use the Advanced Search options in Google Search to filter by ‘Usage Rights’.