Copyright FAQ

Trent Copyright FAQ

1. Copyright Basics

2. Copyright in the Campus Classroom

3. Copyright in the Digital Classroom

Copyright Basics

1.1  What are the laws and rules relating to copyright at Trent University?
The Canadian Copyright Act, various court decisions and agreements and licenses entered into by Trent with copyright owners and representative organizations govern the use of copyrighted materials at Trent University. The Copyright Act is the legislation in Canada that sets out what you can and can't do with other people's copyright materials. In addition to this, Trent has license agreements with copyright owners and publishers, such as subscriptions to electronic journals, which may give you additional rights to copy works that are governed by these license agreements.
In order to determine whether what you want to do is permissible, you need to check that you comply with any licenses covering the work in question as well as with the Copyright Act.

Ask Yourself:

  1. Is the work in question covered by a license that the University has with publishers or a public license such a Creative Commons license? If so, is what I want to do permissible under those licenses?
  2. If not, is what I want to do covered by the Copyright Act, either under the educational exceptions or under the fair dealing exception?

If you are not covered by a license or under an exception in the Act, you will need to obtain permission for what you want to do from the copyright owner. Contact the Copyright Office.

1.2 What does copyright protect?
Copyright protects all original literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, computer programs, translations and compilations of works, as well as sound recordings, performances and communication signals. This encompasses a wide range of things, from books, articles, posters, and manuals, to graphs, CD's DVD's, software, databases and websites.

1.3 How do I know if something is protected by copyright?
Copyright protection arises automatically when any one of the above types of works (see 1.2) is created and generally continues for 50 years after the author's death. When you want to use a particular work, the safest approach is to assume that the work is protected by copyright, unless there is a clear indication to the contrary, or the author has been dead for at least 50 years, and the work is not a translation or annotation of the original author's work.

1.4 What rights does a copyright owner have?
Copyright is the sole and exclusive right of a copyright owner to produce, reproduce, perform, publish, adapt, translate and telecommunicate a work, and to control the circumstances in which others may do any of these things. These rights are subject to certain exceptions under the Copyright Act which balance the copyright owner's interests with the public interest in allowing use of works for purposes such as education, private study and research.

1.5 What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?
Fair dealing is an exception in the Copyright Act which allows you to use other people's copyright material for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review or news reporting, provided what you do with the dealing is "fair". Whether something is "fair" will depend on the circumstances. The precise amount of copying permitted by fair dealing requires an interpretation of the Copyright Act and the decisions of Canadian courts. Accordingly, when determining whether copying falls within the fair dealing exception, one must consider all relevant factors, including the following:

  1. the purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, education, parody or satire, criticism, review or news reporting;
  2. the character of the proposed copying, including whether it involves single or multiple copies, and whether the copy is destroyed after it is used for its specific intended purpose;
  3. the amount of the dealing from the individual user's perspective, including the proportion of the work which is proposed to be copied and the importance of that excerpt in relation to the whole work;
  4. alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyrighted equivalent available;
  5. the nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and
  6. the effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.

In addition, if the purpose of your copying is for criticism, review or news reporting, you must also mention the source and author of the work for it to be fair dealing. See Trent's Fair Dealing Guidelines for further information.

1.6 Does fair dealing include teaching?
Fair dealing does not explicitly mention teaching, but "education" is one of the allowable purposes within the fair dealing exception. In November of 2012 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the fair dealing exception allows teachers to make copies of short excerpts of copyrighted works and distribute them to students as part of classroom instruction, without a prior request from a student, subject to appropriate conditions.

1.7 How long does copyright last?
In Canada, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author, plus 50 years. In the U.S. and Europe, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years. Use of a work in Canada is governed by the Canadian rules for the duration of copyright processes.

1.8 What is meant by 'the public domain'? How do I know if something is public domain?
The term "public domain" refers to works in which the copyright has expired or where the copyright owner has made a clear declaration that they will not assert copyright in the work and that it is their intention that the work should be in the public domain.
For example, although copyright in Shakespeare's plays expired long ago, many of the published editions of his plays contain added original materials (such as annotations, translations, 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 additional original works, but not in the underlying text of the original work in which copyright has expired.
Do not assume that everything you find on the internet is in public domain just because it is publicly available. When using online materials, you should make sure your use falls within the fair dealing exception, or another exception in the Copyright Act, or is covered under the permissions given in the websites 'Terms of Use', or 'Legal Notices' section.

1.9 How do I get permission to use someone else's work?
You Ask! If your use isn't permitted by a license, or one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, you will need to obtain permission. To obtain copyright permission contact the Copyright Office and we will pursue copyright permission on your behalf.

Copyright in the Campus Classroom

PLEASE NOTE: This section only applies to uses of works in the physical classroom - it does not apply to the online classroom or any internet use. Please refer to the 'Digital Classroom' section if you have questions regarding these uses.

2.1 Can I include other people's images and materials in my PowerPoint, Prezi or other classroom presentations? What if I want to provide copies of my presentation to my students?
Under the educational exceptions within the Copyright Act, you may make a copy of a work to display in a classroom presentation on Trent's premises for educational and training purposes, provided that the work is not already available in a commercial format in the Canadian market.
You may record the lecture and post the recording of the lecture in Trent's LearningSystem for your students to access. However, you can only post a copy of the presentation in Trent's LearningSystem (or provide physical copies of the presentation to your students), if the third party copyrighted material within your presentation qualifies as "Short Excerpts" under Trent's Fair Dealing Guidelines.

2.2 I've come across a recent journal article and/or several pages from a book that I want to distribute to my students. Can I distribute these materials to my students?
Yes, in most cases you can make a copy of a work to hand out to students enrolled in your course if the copy qualifies as a "Short Excerpt" according to Trent's Fair Dealing Guidelines. You may also post a digital copy of a short excerpt in Trent's LearningSystem, as long as to do so does not violate any license terms associated with the article.

2.3 Can I show movies, news programs or videos in class?
You can show the following works in class, as long as it is for educational or training purposes, not for profit, on Trent premises and before an audience consisting primarily of students, faculty or staff:

  • a movie or other cinematographic work, provided that the work is not an infringing copy (i.e. legally obtained or purchased), and you do not circumvent a Digital Lock to access the work;
    • if you plan to use a streaming service such as Netflix, you must also make sure that sure that your use does not violate the Terms of Service for that platform that you have agreed to, such as an agreement for personal or household use only.
  • a copy of a news program or news commentary program (excluding documentaries) made by you or Trent for the purposes of showing the copy to Trent students for educational or training purposes;
  • a video or other subject matter that is available through the Internet, e.g. available on YouTube, as long as you satisfy the following criteria:
    • you do not break or circumvent a Digital Lock to access or obtain a copy of the work;
    • there is no clear and visible notice on the website or on the work itself that prohibits the use or reproduction of the work (more than just a copyright symbol);
    • the website is not questionable, infringing or clearly using the works without the copyright owner's consent; and
    • you identify the source of the work and, if available and applicable, the author, performer, maker or broadcaster of the work.

2.4 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 or training purposes, not for profit, on University premises, and before an audience consisting primarily of students, faculty, or any person who is directly responsible for setting curriculum at Trent. 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 license must be obtained from the copyright collectives SOCAN and Re:Sound. This can be done through the copyright office, contact

Copyright in the Digital Classroom

3.1 May I post a PDF of a journal article I obtained through the library's e-journals, or a book chapter, to Trent's LearningSystem for my students to read?
Posting a single article from a periodical publication or a book chapter to Blackboard may be permitted under the fair dealing guidelines, unless this is not allowed under the terms of Trent's digital license for the specific e-journal or e-book provided by the Trent Library. Before posting, check Trent's License Information Database, or e-mail

3.2 Is there any difference between posting something on my own website versus posting something on Trent's LearningSystem?
Yes. Posting something on your own website means you are making it available to the world. Wide distribution tends towards the conclusion that the dealing is not "fair" and such uses may not be covered by the University licenses. By contrast, Trent's LearningSystem is a password protected, secure website accessible only to students enrolled in a particular course. In some cases, posting a short excerpt from a work on Trent's LearningSystem will be covered by one of the University's electronic subscriptions, or by the fair dealing exception. The key thing to remember is just because you may post a copyright-protected work on Trent's LearningSystem doesn't mean you have permission to post the work on your own personal website.

3.3 I gave a PowerPoint (or Prezi) presentation in a class lecture which includes materials from a textbook (including multiple graphs and images), as well as articles and photos from various Trent Library e-journals. Can I post a video or audio recording of the class lecture on Trent's LearningSystem? I will be sure to cite where the figures came from.
The Copyright Act allows educational institutions to communicate lessons (which includes parts of lessons, tests or examinations) on-line to students enrolled in a specific course, for educational or training purposes, and record such lessons, as long as the inclusion of any third party copyrighted materials in such lessons is allowed under another exception under the Copyright Act, e.g. fair dealing or other educational exceptions. The student can also make a copy of such telecommunicated lessons to be viewed or listened to at a later time, as long as:

  • the student and the institution destroy the recording, fixation or copy within 30 days after the receipt by students of their final course evaluations; and
  • the institution takes reasonable measures to limit the audience to students only (e.g. secure password-protected access only), and to prevent the students from fixing, reproducing or communicating such lessons except as permitted under this exception. 

The recordings cannot be sold, rented or distributed widely (beyond the audience of students enrolled in the class) to the public, in any way that prejudices the copyright owner.

This exception would allow you to post a video or audio recording of your class lecture, including a recorded voice-over PowerPoint of the lesson, on Trent's LearningSystem, as long as you comply with the destruction and other requirements described above.

3.4 Is it okay to use images or other materials from the internet for educational purposes?
It depends on what you want to do. Materials on the internet are treated the same under copyright law as any other copyright materials, so if you want to use them, you have to either fall within one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, such as fair dealing, or have permission from the copyright owner. There is an educational exception available under the Copyright Act which allows you to use, copy, e-mail, or perform these internet materials for classroom presentations, or for posting on Trent's secure LearningSystem (for educational or training purposes) as long as you satisfy the following four criteria:

  • the material was posted legitimately (i.e. by the copyright owner, or with his/her consent);
  • there is no clearly visible notice prohibiting educational use of content;
  • there is no technological protection measure (Digital Lock) preventing access to the material or preventing copying of the material (e.g. a presentation on a website like Prezi, a video on YouTube; and
  • you have acknowledged the author and website.

You should also check the website's 'Terms of Use' or 'Legal Notices' section to confirm what conditions apply to the use of the website's material. Many websites will allow non-commercial educational use of their materials.

3.5 If I distribute two "short excerpts" from the same textbook, one distributed as a class handout and one posted on Trent's LearningSystem, are these considered to be separate instances of "fair dealing"?
There should be no copying of the same copyrighted work beyond the "Short Excerpt" limits (see the fair dealing guidelines for further explanation of what may qualify as a short excerpt). Therefore, if you are copying different Short Excerpts from one book, combine all copying instances to determine whether you are copying within the "Short Excerpt" limitations. Copying or communicating multiple short excerpts from the same copyrighted work with the effect of exceeding the copying limits under the "Short Excerpt" definition would be considered systemic or cumulative copying, which is strictly prohibited.

3.6 Do I need permission to link to a website?
In most cases no, but you should check the website's 'Terms of Use' or 'Legal Notices' section to confirm whether it has any specific linking prohibitions. If the webpage does not clearly identify the website and content owner, you should also 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. You should also avoid linking to websites that illegally share copyrighted materials or do not appear to be legitimate.
Before you link to anything available through the Trent Library, you must check that linking is permitted according to the particular digital license for that item. To check if linking is permitted use the Get it! function, or check Trent's License Information Database. In most cases linking is permitted, but a few license agreements, such as JSTOR, do not permit linking.

3.7 May I post examples of my students' work on Trent's LearningSystem? Can students post their own work?
You can only post a student's work if you have obtained their permission. Students own the work they create and can post it in Blackboard. In either case however, if the work contains third party copyrighted materials, you or the student will also need to determine whether such materials fall within Trent's fair dealing guidelines, or whether permission from the copyright owner is required in order to post such materials in Blackboard.


This Copyright FAQ has been adapted for use at Trent University from the Waterloo Copyright FAQ, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommerical 2.5 Canada License