Copyright On-Campus

Can I distribute copies of a journal article to students?

In general you may make copies of a copyright-protected article to distribute to students in your course if the article is published in an open access journal, or if it is covered by fair dealing, an institutional or Creative Commons license, or permission from the copyright owner to distribute the work for your intended purpose.  A July 2012 Supreme Court of Canada decision provides guidance on how to assess whether fair dealing applies to teachers' copying of short excerpts for use by students as class handouts.

If fair dealing and open access licensing are not applicable, check whether the article you wish to distribute to your class is covered under a Library license agreement by searching for the journal title in the University Library's Copyright Permissions Look-up tool.

If you wish to provide students in your course with access to a collection of articles, your options may include providing persistent links to the articles in Moodle, placing articles on Print or Electronic Reserve, and obtaining permission from copyright owners to reproduce the articles in a coursepack or in a digital format for distribution in a secure electronic environment such as Moodle.  To discuss options that may be applicable to the articles you have selected, please contact the University Copyright Advisor.

Can I share my copies of articles and chapters with others?

If by "share" you mean allowing others to make further copies of authorized reproductions that belong to you  (e.g., copies made for your personal use from lawfully obtained originals), this may be an infringement of copyright.  An exception may exist if your reproduction is an open access work for which the copyright owner permits public distribution, but you need to verify that this is the case.  If you acquired a copy of a work through interlibrary loan, it was likely provided to you with the express limitation that redistribution is not permitted.  Look for a notice prohibiting further redistribution and other use restrictions on the document itself, its cover page, or in the delivery message you received.

On the other hand, if you wish to share your legally obtained copies of works with other individuals by allowing them to read your copies, there are no restrictions on this type of sharing provided that no further reproductions are made from your copies.

When applicable, keep in mind that sharing links to articles and chapters is preferable to sharing copies because links are not copies of works.  In addition, linking to works covered by institutional licenses allows the Library to track use and obtain data about the importance of those works to the University.  The Library provides instructions on how to create persistent links for its licensed databases, and the Library's Information and Research Assistance Desk staff can provide assistance if needed. 

May I photocopy and distribute class handouts to students?

If you wish to distribute classroom handouts containing a substantial part of one or more copyright-protected works, first ensure that appropriate permissions are in place if any are required. On July 12, 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered an important affirmative decision that addressed "whether photocopies made by teachers to distribute to students as part of class instruction can qualify as fair dealing under the Copyright Act" (2012 SCC 37). The decision took into account the six fair dealing factors laid out in a previous Supreme Court of Canada decision (2004 SCC 13).

For U of L instructors this means that copying short excerpts for distribution as class handouts to students enrolled in your courses may qualify as fair dealing if the copying, on balance, is fair according to the six fair dealing factors. For assistance in assessing whether fair dealing applies to the copies you wish to make, please contact the University Copyright Advisor

Can I include images in slide presentations?

In general you may copy images of copyright works into slide presentations for instructional purposes without copyright owner permission, but limitations apply.  The educational exceptions to copyright infringement in the Copyright Act allow you "to reproduce a work, or do any other necessary act, in order to display it."  This exception applies only when there is no commercially available version of the work in a medium appropriate for the instructional purpose.

Note that this exception is limited to reproduction of a work to display it for instructional purposes on the University's premises (i.e., on-campus).  It does not allow you to make and distribute copies of your slides containing the copied works. You could, however, create a different version of your presentation for distribution purposess that contains only links to, or brief textual descriptions of, the copyright works.  If you wish to include a substantial part of a copyright work in a slide presentation delivered outside of the University's premises or make the presentation available online, since these uses fall outside of the educational exceptions you may do so only if your use is covered by an open access or institutional license, the fair dealing exceptions, or permission obtained from the copyright owner.

To find sources of images in the public domain or freely available under open access licensing permitting public uses such as reproduction and redistribution, use the Creative Commons Search tool or use the following specific search tools:

  • Open Clip Art Library: "Each artist at Openclipart releases all rights to the images they share at Openclipart. The reason is so that there is no friction in using and sharing images authors make available at this website so that each artist might also receive the same benefit in using other artists clipart totally for any possible reason." (License)
  • flickr Creative Commons: "Many Flickr users have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through content under each type of license."
  • flickr Commons: "The key goal of The Commons is to share hidden treasures from the world's public photography archives." Materials in the Commons are contributed by institutions that have determined the photographs are subject to "no known copyright restrictions." (Rights Statement)
  • Stokpic: Photographs made publicly available under a Creative Commons Zero license. "This means you can copy, modify, distribute and print the photos. The pictures are free for personal and even for commercial use. All without asking for permission or setting a link to the source. So that attribution is not required. Basically the photos are completely free to be used for any legal purpose." (Stokpic license)
  • Wikimedia Commons: "[A]lmost all content hosted on Wikimedia Commons may be freely reused subject to certain restrictions (in many cases). You do not need to obtain a specific statement of permission from the licensor(s) of the content unless you wish to use the work under different terms than the license states." (Reusing content outside Wikimedia)

Web comics made available for public reuse by the copyright owner (sometimes with conditions) include the following:

  • Hyperbole and a Half: "Is your work copyrighted? Can I repost it? My stories and drawings are copyrighted, but as long as you attribute your use of my images/words correctly (with a link to the source of the material), it should be fine. But please don't completely repost anything." (FAQ)
  • "[L]icensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License with . . . conditions" (Comic Use Policy)
  • Moose Lake Cartoons: "Over 980 FREE cartoons . . . They can be used at no cost by anyone, anywhere, for any purpose. . . All I ask is that you place a link to my page under or beside the cartoon you use."
  • Pepper & Carrot: "Commercial usage, translations, fan-arts, printing, movies, video-games, sharing, repost are encouraged. License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0" (Philosophy)
  • xkcd: " This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License. This means you're free to copy and share these comics (but not to sell them)." (More Details)

If the images you wish to use are freely available on the Internet, see the FAQ on using Web-accessible material for educational purposes.

Can I play music in class?

Yes, section 29.5 (b) of the educational exceptions to copyright infringement in the Copyright Act provides that the public performance of a sound recording in class is not an infringement of copyright as long as:

  • the sound recording is not an infringing copy
  • the performance takes place on the University's premises
  • the performance is for educational or training purposes and not for profit, and
  • the audience consists primarily of the University's students, instructors, or individuals responsible for the University's curriculum.

But if you wish to use music for purposes other than educational (e.g., providing background music at a conference or in an athletic facility), a license must be obtained from the copyright collective SOCAN. Please contact the University Copyright Advisor if you think your desired use of music may require a license.

Can I play videos in class?

Yes, section 29.5 (d) of the educational exceptions to copyright infringement in the Copyright Act provides that the public performance of a film or video in class is not an infringement of copyright as long as:

  • the work is not an infringing copy
  • the performance takes place on the University's premises
  • the performance is for educational or training purposes and not for profit, and
  • the audience consists primarily of the University's students, instructors, or individuals responsible for the University's curriculum.

In addition, section 29.6 of the Copyright Act provides that an educational institution may make a single copy of a television news or news commentary program, excluding documentaries, in order to screen the copy for its students for educational or training purposes.

For more information see the Films and Videos page in the Permissions section of this website.

Can students perform a play on campus?

Yes, section 29.5 (a) of the educational exceptions to copyright infringement in the Copyright Act provides that a live performance of a work is not an infringement of copyright as long as:

  • the performance is performed primarily by the University's students
  • the performance takes place on the University's premises
  • the performance is for educational or training purposes and not for profit, and
  • the audience consists primarily of the University's students, instructors, or individuals responsible for the University's curriculum.

Are there educational exceptions to infringement for other instructional purposes?

Yes, section 29.4 of the educational exceptions to copyright infringement in the Copyright Act permits reproduction of a work, as well as any other act necessary to reproduce the work, in order to display the work on the University's premises for purposes of education or training. Also permitted is the reproduction, translation, or public performance of a work on the University's premises for examination or test purposes. These uses are permitted as long as the work is not commercially available in a medium appropriate for the purposes referred to in section 29.4.

Are there sources of open access works that I can use in class?

"Open access" is defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative as scholarly literature that is "free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself." When creators wish to provide open access to their works, they may choose to publish their works in open access journals or similar open access publishing systems where terms of use specify certain uses of the works that are available to the public without the need to ask for permission.  Alternatively, creators may license their works using a Creative Commons license that specifies certain uses of their works that do not require the copyright owner's permission.

  • Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides free copyright licenses and tools to facilitate the development of a universal digital commons.  Licensing a work under a Creative Commons license generally means the work is freely available for use, subject to certain limited conditions, such as noncommercial use and acknowledgment of the creator.  Visit Creative Commons Canada to access Creative Commons licenses available in Canada.
  • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a multidisciplinary directory of peer-reviewed freely accessible scholarly journals.  Although all DOAJ titles are integrated into the University Library's Journal Title index, you can browse the DOAJ by subject to find relevant open access journals in your discipline.
  • Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) provides access to more than 3,300 academic, peer-reviewed books that are licensed under an open access licence such as Creative Commons. Each book described in the DOAB is free to read and share, and may be downloaded from the publisher's website.
  • International Music Score Library Project is a collection of more than 111,000 musical scores in the public domain.
  • MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resources for Learning and Online Teaching) is a collection of peer-reviewed open access educational resources for higher education.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare is a Web-based publication of almost all MIT undergraduate and graduate course materials that support MIT courses.  The free online course material is available for noncommercial educational use and reuse subject to attribution and share-alike requirements.
  • Open Educational Resources Commons is a database of open educational resources made freely available to the public with few limited restrictions on use.  Of the 30,000 resources currently accessible through the database, over 18,000 are at a post-secondary level.
  • OpenLearn is an initiative of the United Kingdom-based Open University that provides distance delivery of higher education programs.  OpenLearn provides free access to and use of learning materials under a noncommercial, share-alike Creative Commons license.
  • Open Textbook Library is a catalogue of openly licensed university-level textbooks compiled by the University of Minnesota's College of Education and Human Development. In addition to open licensing, included textbooks are similar to currently available traditional textbooks regarding completeness, are suitable for adoption outside textbook authors' institutions, and have a printed option.
  • Project Gutenberg is an online collection of over 40,000 literary works in the public domain in the United States.  One sister project, Project Gutenberg Canada, provides online access to books in the Canadian public domain.
  • SHERPA/RoMEO is a database (RoMEO) of publishers' policies on Web-based self-archiving of journal articles and in open access repositories provided by SHERPA, a consortium of research-intensive organizations in the United Kingdom that focuses on facilitating open access to research.  You can browse or search the database to determine which academic publishers have the strongest policies in support of open access to research published in the journal literature.

For other online works, a recommended best practice is to look for a Terms of Use or Legal Notices section in which use permissions or conditions may be specified. For more information see the Library guide on Open Access.

Can students include copyright materials in course assignments?

Generally, yes. The fair dealing exception provides certain limited rights for individuals to use copyright works for research, private study, criticism,  review, news reporting, education, parody, or satire.  Student use of a work is likely to be deemed fair as long as it qualifies, on balance, as fair dealing according to the fair dealing factors suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada, and students acknowledge the source and the name of the creator if the purpose is criticism, review, or news reporting.

Another potentially applicable infringement exception available to students is the s. 29.21 provision covering "Non-commercial user-generated content." For more information, see the FAQ on this user's right.

Can a work be modified to aid a student with perceptual disabilities?

Yes, section 32 of the exceptions to copyright infringement for persons with perceptual disabilities in the Copyright Act permits a person with a perceptual disability, or an individual or non-profit organization acting for the benefit of such a person, to make a copy or sound recording of a literary, musical, artistic, or dramatic work in a format specially designed for use by a person with a perceptual disability as long as the format is not a large-print book.  This exception to copyright infringement applies only when the work is not commercially available in an appropriate format, and does not apply to cinematographic works.

Do I need permission to use copyrighted materials in conference presentations?

It depends. Since copyright is territorial, the applicable law is the copyright law of the country in which your conference is held. This FAQ outlines some issues to consider if your conference takes place in Canada. You may also download it as a PDF. It was originally created to accompany a slide presentation viewable at

In general, the questions raise the following key issues: Protected? Reproduction? Permitted? Lawful Source?

  1. Is the material copyrighted? That is, has the term of copyright expired?
  2. If you are using an excerpt, is it a "substantial part" of the whole work?
  3. Do you need to reproduce the material, or can you use a link instead?
  4. Is your use covered by an applicable Creative Commons, open access or other license?
  5. Is your use covered by a users' right such as fair dealing under the Copyright Act?
  6. Is the source you are using non-infringing and was there no circumvention of technological protection measures in order to access the work?
  7. If you are using a reproduction or recording (print or digital, offline or online), do you have reasonable grounds to believe it was copied or made available to the public with the copyright owner's consent?
  8. If permission is needed and obtaining it is contingent on fee payment or some other condition(s), have you paid the fee and/or met the condition(s)?

The Supreme Court of Canada devised a two-step test to determine whether or not a particular dealing with (use of) a copyrighted work likely qualifies as fair dealing. See the "Assessing Fair Dealing" section of the fair dealing FAQ for more information.