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Learning Portal - Digital Citizenship : Copyright


The Copyright Act is a federal law that you must ensure to follow whenever you reproduce or distribute someone else’s copyrighted works.

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Top Tips 

✓ What is Copyright? Copyright is a law that protects the moral and economic rights of content creators. Use this page to learn more about copyright.

✓ Copyright at Your College. Your college can help you understand copyright and its implications. Find your college's copyright policy in the list of links on this page.

✓ Cite Your Sources. Even if the material you would like to use has a Creative Commons license or is in the public domain, you should always cite your sources.

✓ Don't Take Shortcuts. The consequences of breaking copyright law can be severe. Always do the extra work to make sure you are staying within the boundaries of copyright law.

Other Licensing Models

Public Domain mark from Creative Commons website Works in the public domain belong to the public and are free to use without permission.

Typically, copyright lasts for 50 years after the copyright owner has died - after that, the work is in the public domain.

For example, the works of Shakespeare and Mozart are in the public domain and can be republished by others without permission from a copyright owner. For more about the public domain, see Government of Canada, About copyright.

You should still cite public domain content in your academic work. Although public domain content may be copyright free and citing is not legally required, citing all content that is the work of others is still required by most college Academic Integrity policies.

Public Domain Content 

The licenses that Creative Commons produces make it easy for both creators and consumers to identify the legal options for the use, modification, or sale of creative works.

  • Made something and want to apply a Creative Commons license? Learn how to share your work.
  • Found something with a Creative Commons license? Learn more about using & remixing.

There are a variety of materials online that have a Creative Commons license (you can search by license here. These licenses allow the use of material under certain conditions. You always have to cite your sources but there other conditions that may apply (like non-commercial use, or you’re not allowed to modify it, etc.).

Sites with Creative Commons materials include the following:

Web Resources

There is no doubt that copyright can be complicated. If you have questions, make your college library your first stop!  See links to Ontario College copyright guides on this page.  And see the resources listed below to learn more. 

Copyright in Canada

Overview of Copyright

Video below from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (2016)

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a law that protects moral and economic rights of content creators. Copyright has rights for both creators and users in an effort to create a balanced and fair use of copyrighted works. There are also exceptions available, such as fair dealing, consult your college's copyright policies to learn more.

In Canada, copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of a work. As soon as you produce something original in fixed form (written, video, audio on a CD, etc.) you own the copyright for that item (unless you’ve agreed to sign it over to someone else). Only the copyright owner has the right to decide when and how the work is used (from The Copyright Act).

And remember even if a work does not have a copyright symbol ©, the work is still protected under The Copyright Act.

What is Protected?

All original creative works not in the public domain or under a different license like Creative Commons are protected by copyright.

This includes: 

  • Artistic works such as drawings, engravings, paintings and photographs.

  • Computer/digital material like clip art, computer programs, databases, emails, blogs, wikis and websites.

  • Dramatic works including radio and television shows, films, plays and musicals.

  • Literary works such as books, magazines, pamphlets and newspapers.

  • Musical works such as arrangements, adaptations, sound recordings and sheet music.

A guide to copyright

Canadian Intellectual Property Office 

Full Guide Found Here

Overview of Copyright Policies

What policies should I be aware of?

Below are some NWP policies concerning copyright and intellectual property:

A Warning

If you are found infringing on The Copyright Act you could:

Copyright in the Classroom

What is Fair Dealing?

Fair dealing is a section in the copyright act which permits the use of a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner. Fair Dealing allows you to copy a short excerpt from a copyright protected work. Short excerpts mean you can copy up to 10 percent of a copyrighted work such as:

  • One chapter of a book

  • A single article from a periodical

  • An entire artistic work (including a painting, print, photograph, diagram, drawing, map, chart, and plan) from a copyright-protected work containing other artistic works

  • An entire newspaper article or page

  • An entire poem or single musical score from a copyright protected work

  • Entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, or similar reference work

You can use these materials for the following purposes: research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review or news reporting.

It is NOT fair to copy multiple short excerpts from the same copyright protected work.

Copyright and Films and Media

Films and media are shown in the classroom and can be used to help you write an assignment or in a presentation. There are a few things you need to know when using a film in your assignments.

Questions to ask before using a video in a classroom setting:

  • Was the video posted online by the copyright owner?

  • Does the site’s Terms of Use allow you to stream their videos for educational use?

  • Does the video contain copyrighted information from another source (for example, music, pictures, or charts)?

  • Is the video allowed to be shown in Canada? (there will be a message if it is not).

  • Is the video a commercial posted by someone other than the advertising company?

  • Has the video been available online for more than a few days? (companies often remove content immediately if it infringes copyright).

Digital Locks

A digital lock is also called technological protection measure (TPM) or digital rights management (DRM), and it is basically any technology that controls or restricts access to or copying of a work. The Copyright Act prohibits breaking or circumventing digital locks for the use of copyrighted works, even in cases where the use would be allowed under user exceptions such as fair dealing.

Examples of a digital lock on a film:

  • Special technology on a streaming video that restricts which country it can be viewed in.

  • In some cases, YouTube videos and videos from other video sharing sites may contain content that was not uploaded by the video's copyright owner and use of these videos is copyright infringement. Search for official versions of videos uploaded by the content creator.

  • You cannot make copies of films or streaming videos at home and then show it in the classroom. This is an illegal download of a copyrighted work.



Unless otherwise stated, the material in this guide is from the Learning Portal created by College Libraries Ontario. Content has been adapted for the NWP Learning Commons in June 2021. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY NC SA 4.0 International License.

All icons on these pages are from The Noun Project. See individual icons for creator attribution.