Frequently asked questions

1. Copyright basics
1.1 What are the laws and rules relating to copyright at the University of Ottawa?
Icon of a Checklist

Use of copyright materials at uOttawa is covered by the Canadian Copyright Act, and various agreements and licences entered into by the University with copyright owners and representative organizations. 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, the University has special agreements with copyright owners, such as subscriptions to electronic journals, which give you additional rights to certain content.

In order to determine whether what you want to do is permissible, you need to check that you comply with any agreements or licences covering the work in question and/or the Copyright Act. You should ask yourself:

  1. Is the work in question covered by an agreement or licences – see Question 3.3 – that the University library has with publishers or a public licence such as a Creative Commons licence? If so, is what I want to do permissible under those agreements or licences?
  1. If not, is what I want to do covered by the Copyright Act, under an exception such as fair dealing? See Fair Dealing Guidelines.

If you’re not covered by any agreement or licence or an exception under the Act, you’ll need to get permission – see Question 1.11 for what you want to do from the copyright owner.

1.2 What does copyright cover?
Multimedia icon

Copyright protects literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, as well as sound recordings, performances and communication signals. This encompasses a wide range of things, ranging from books, articles, posters, manuals and graphs, to CDs, DVDs, software, databases and websites. See Alternatives to Copyright.

1.3 Is plagiarism the same thing as copyright infringement?
Icon of a hand stealing

No. Plagiarism is the incorrect use of source material without adequately or properly attributing it to the author. If you are taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own, you are plagiarising.

Copyright infringement, however, is more than just the inadequate citation of a source. It involves the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of someone else’s work. However, there are some exceptions in the Copyright Act, such as the “fair dealing” exception, which allows you to copy a small amount of another person’s work if it falls into certain categories (see the University’s set of Fair dealing guidelines for more information). Another exception is the educational institution exception, which makes it possible to reproduce another person’s work for the purpose of education or training. For more information about these exceptions, please consult our Exceptions to copyright page.

1.4 How do I know if something is protected by copyright?
Do not copy warning

Copyright protection arises automatically when any one of the above types of works is created and generally continues for 50 years after the author’s death, though this can depend on the type of work and where you want to use it. When you want to use a particular work in Canada, the safest approach is to assume that the work is protected by copyright, unless there’s a clear indication to the contrary or the author has been dead for at least 50 years.

For more information about duration of copyright protection in Canada see the Government of Canada’s About Copyright publication.

1.5 What rights does a copyright owner have?
Icon of a shield

Copyright gives the copyright owner a number of legal rights, such as the right to copy and translate a work and the right to communicate a work to the public by telecommunication. These rights are qualified by certain exceptions which balance the copyright owner’s interests with the public interest in allowing use of works for purposes such as education and research.

1.6 What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?
Icon of Balance

Fair dealing is a user’s right in copyright law permitting use, or "dealing" with, a copyright-protected work without permission or payment of copyright royalties. The fair dealing exception in the Copyright Act allows you to use other people’s copyright material for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire or parody provided that what you do with the work is "fair". Whether something is "fair" will depend on the circumstances. Courts will normally consider factors such as:


  • the purpose of the dealing (Is it commercial or research / educational?)
  • the amount of the dealing (How much was copied?)
  • the character of the dealing (What was done with the work? Was it an isolated use or an ongoing, repetitive use? How widely was it distributed?)
  • alternatives to the dealing (Was the work necessary for the end result? Could the purpose have been achieved without using the work?)
  • the nature of the work (Is there a public interest in its dissemination? Was it previously unpublished?)
  • the effect of the dealing on the original work (Does the use compete with the market of the original work?)

It is not necessary that your use meet every one of these factors in order to be fair and no one factor is determinative by itself. In assessing whether your use is fair, a court would look at the factors as a whole to determine if, on balance, your use is fair – each analysis is therefore unique.   

If, having taken into account these considerations, the use can be characterized as "fair" and it was for the purpose of research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire or parody then it will fall within the fair dealing exception and will not require permission from the copyright owner. In addition, if your purpose is criticism, review, or news summary you must also mention the source and author of the work for it to be fair dealing.

Note: for further clarity and additional information about limits on the amount and nature of copying permitted under fair dealing in certain contexts, please see the University’s Fair Dealing Guidelines.

Please note as well: it’s important to distinguish "fair dealing" from "fair use". The fair use exception in U.S. copyright law is NOT the equivalent of fair dealing in Canadian law. The wording and scope of the two exceptions are different. It is important to make sure that you consider the Canadian law and aren’t relying on U.S. information.

1.7 Does fair dealing cover teaching?
Drawing of a stick figure teaching

Yes. While fair dealing doesn't specifically mention teaching it does mention education. The Supreme Court of Canada has also ruled that a teacher may make copies of short excerpts of copyright-protected works and distribute them to students as part of classroom instruction under the fair dealing exception. See the page For Instructors for details about fair dealing by instructors.

1.8 How long does copyright last?
Icon of a Stopwatch

The duration of copyright depends on the country you are in. In Canada, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author, plus 50 years. By contrast, in the U.S. and Europe, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years, though it can differ depending on factors such as the type of work, the manner of publication and the date of creation. Use of a work in Canada is governed by the Canadian rules for the duration of copyright protection.

1.9 What is meant by ‘the public domain’? How do I know if something is public domain?
Public Domain Icon Image

The term "public domain" refers to works in which copyright has expired. See Question 1.4.

For example, although the copyright in Shakespeare's plays expired long ago, many of the published editions of his plays contain added original materials (such as 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 added original material, but not in the underlying text of the original work in which the copyright had expired.

Don't assume that everything you find on the Internet is in the public domain just because it is publicly available. Most of the material you find online is protected by copyright. However, you may nonetheless be able to use it for educational purposes because many uses will be covered by fair dealing or the exception for educational use of material publicly available through the Internet. See the page For Instructors for details about using fair dealing in your teaching, or on the exception for educational use of Internet materials.

Note: Some copyright owners have made clear declarations that certain uses of their copyright works may be made without permission or payment. The Reproduction of Federal Law Order, for example, permits anyone, without charge or request for permission, to reproduce Canadian laws and decisions of federally-constituted courts and administrative tribunals in Canada.

1.10 How does copyright work internationally?
Icon of the Globe

Copyright is recognized internationally thanks to international conventions. So, generally, your copyright will be protected in other countries. Note, however, that the level of protection might be different than in Canada since each country has its own copyright laws. When using copyright-protected materials, you should generally apply the law of the country where the use occurs. For example, if you are photocopying a chapter of a book in the United States, U.S. law applies. If you’re concerned about someone’s use of your work in another country, you will need to check the particular country’s copyright laws to confirm whether they are infringing your copyright.

1.11 How do I get permission to use someone else’s work?
Question mark icon

You ask! If your use isn’t permitted by a licence, or one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, you will need to ask for permission. The permission must come from the copyright owner so the first step is to identify who the copyright owner is and whether there is an organization that represents the owner. There are a number of copyright collectives who can give you permission (in the form of a licence) on behalf of the copyright owner to use their work. So, for example, if you want to use music and your use doesn’t fall within any of the Copyright Act’s exceptions, you may be able to obtain permission from copyright collectives such as the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) or Re:Sound that administer copyright in music.

But if the copyright owner is easily identifiable and locatable, it can sometimes be easier to contact them directly as many copyright owners will give permission to academic users without requiring payment. Usually you’ll be able to identify the owner somewhere on the work by looking for the copyright symbol ©, which should have the copyright owner’s name next to it. You’ll often find this at the beginning of a book, at the side of a photograph or at the bottom of a webpage. Once you’ve located the owner, simply email or write to them, explaining how and why you want to use the work and requesting permission. The permission should be in writing. An email will suffice. It is not advisable to rely on verbal permission. You should also keep a file record of who gave the permission, what was permitted, the date, and how to contact the person who gave the permission.

1.12 What are moral rights and what do they have to do with copyright?
Icon of a plaque

Moral rights are additional rights held by authors of literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. They consist of rights that protect the integrity of a work and the reputation of its author. The right of attribution is the right to always be identified as the author of a work or to remain anonymous. The right of integrity is the right not to have a work modified or associated with goods or services in a way that is prejudicial to the author’s reputation. These rights are important for authors to ensure they get appropriate recognition for their works and for prohibiting any prejudicial changes to their works.

1.13 Who owns the copyright in the works I create at uOttawa?
Icon of a square academic hat

Works prepared within the scope of employment, also called "works for hire", generally belong to the employer. However, in keeping with academic tradition, and article 35 of the collective agreement between the University of Ottawa and the Association of Professors of the University of Ottawa, the University generally grants ownership of copyrights of original works resulting from faculty members' or students' own efforts to the creator(s).

1.14 Are there special rules for scanning?
Icon of a printer

If you want to scan something, you may do so only if the use falls within one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, such as fair dealing, or where no permission is required, such as scanning a public domain work. If you want to scan a work that is still in copyright and add it to a website you need to be sure that the website is password protected and restricted to students enrolled in your course, e.g. Virtual Campus. If what you want to do falls outside the exceptions and is not in the public domain, you will need to get the copyright owner’s permission – see Question 1.11.

1.15 Is data protected by copyright?
A cabinet with documents

Data is not generally protected by copyright in Canada. The way data is formatted or represented may be protected (such as a graph, a database or a data set), but the data itself can still be used and reformatted.

2. Copyright in the classroom
2.1 Can I make copies of copyright-protected works to hand out to students in class? Can I include copies of another person’s images and materials in my PowerPoint presentations?
Icon of reproduced documents.

Yes. Under fair dealing you may make copies of another person’s works and hand them out to students enrolled in your course. Under fair dealing you may also include another person’s work, including images, in your PowerPoint presentations that you display to students enrolled in your course. In both cases, you must adhere to the amount that may be copied under fair dealing. Please see the University’s Fair Dealing Guidelines for details, as well as For Instructors.

2.2 Can I post copies of copyright-protected works to uOttawa’s Virtual Campus? Can I email copies to students enrolled in my courses?
Icon of a computer screen leading to the University of Ottawa's website.

Yes, you can do both if you adhere to the amount that may be copied under fair dealing. Please see the University’s Fair Dealing Guidelines for details, as well as For Instructors.

Note however that in some instances a copyright-protected work is made available under a digital licence that prohibits certain uses such as posting an electronic article to Virtual Campus. Any such restrictions should be respected, and seen as taking precedence over fair dealing. Consult Using Electronic Resources for information about such restrictions, as well as Question 3.3.

2.3 Is there any difference between posting something on my own website versus posting something on uOttawa's Virtual Campus?

Yes. Posting something on your own website means you are making the work available world-wide. Wide distribution tends towards the conclusion that the dealing is not “fair” and such uses may not be covered by any University licences. By contrast, uOttawa's Virtual Campus is a password protected, secure website accessible only by students enrolled in university courses. In some cases, posting material on Virtual Campus will be covered by one of the University’s electronic subscriptions. The key thing to remember is just because you may post a copyright-protected work to the Virtual Campus doesn’t mean you have permission to post the work on your own personal website. See Using Virtual Campus.

2.4 I’ve come across a recent journal article that I want to give out to my students. Can I photocopy it and hand it out to them?

Yes. The Fair Dealing Guidelines permit the copying of an entire journal article. Copies may be handed out to the students enrolled in your course or you may scan and post a copy of the article on Virtual Campus.

Keep in mind that allowable use of e-journal articles is governed by a licence. Consult Using Electronic Resources, Question 2.2, as well as Question 3.3.

2.5 May I upload a PDF of a journal article I obtained through the library’s e-journals to uOttawa's Virtual Campus for my students to read?
Download icon.

In some instances the journal article is made available under a licence that prohibits posting to Virtual Campus.  Consult Using Electronic Resources, Question 2.2, as well as Question 3.3.

The licences for some e-journals provided by the Library allow instructors to upload articles into secure course management systems such as uOttawa's Virtual Campus. While there may be a good reason to upload articles to Virtual Campus, it is important to consider that doing so could mean that your students do not have the most recent version of the article. It is not unusual for publishers to make corrections or changes, such as adding supplementary material, to articles after initial publication. If such changes are made after a copy has been uploaded they will not be reflected in that copy. A direct link is the best way to ensure access to the most recent version of an article. Linking to the article also allows the Library to track use and obtain data about the importance of a particular journal to the campus. See Linking to Full-Text Articles and E-books.

Even in cases where uploading and linking to articles on Virtual Campus is permitted by the licences, it is important to remember that licences generally do not permit you to upload to a website, or create links on a website, that is not part of the University’s secure network, and that is open to the world at large. None of the licences that the Library has with publishers allows for uploading to, or linking from, websites that allow access without authentication.

2.6 May I scan a print journal article or a book chapter into a PDF and post it on uOttawa's Virtual Campus?

As long as you adhere to the amounts that may be copied under fair dealing you may scan and post it on Virtual Campus. See the Fair Dealing Guidelines for details, as well as Using Virtual Campus. It’s important to note that fair dealing does not allow you to scan material and add it to a website unless that website is password protected and restricted to students enrolled in your course. If you want to scan a copyright protected work for inclusion on an open website, you will need to obtain permission from the right’s holder.

2.7 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 purposes, not for profit, on University premises, before an audience consisting primarily of students. 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 licence must be obtained from the copyright collectives the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) and Re:Sound

2.8 Can I play videos in class?

You may play videos in class under the following circumstances:

  • You may show a film or other cinematographic work in the classroom as long as the work is not an infringing copy, the film or work was legally obtained, and you do not circumvent a digital lock to access the film or work.
  • If you want to show a television news program in the classroom, under the Copyright Act, educational institutions (or those acting under their authority) may copy television news programs or news commentaries and play them in class.
  • You may perform a work available through the Internet, e.g. YouTube, videos, except under the following circumstances:
  • The work is protected by digital locks preventing their performance
  • A clearly visible notice prohibiting educational use is posted on the website or on the work itself.
  • You have reason to believe that the work available on the Internet is in violation of the copyright owner’s rights.

If you want to show a video in class and need assistance, please contact the University’s Media Library. For more details, see the Media Library’s Films and Videos research guide.

2.9 Can students include copyright materials in their assignments and presentations?

Generally yes. Since fair dealing now includes education, students may include limited amounts of material in their assignments and presentations. See the Fair Dealing Guidelines for details.

2.10 Are there any databases of copyright materials that I can use for free without worrying about copyright?

Yes. There's a wealth of material out there which is either in the public domain or available under what is known as Creative Commons licensing, which generally means the work is available for free, subject to certain limited conditions, such as non-commercial use only and acknowledgment of the author.

For Creative Commons materials, visit the Creative Commons website for more information or check out their content directories which list audio, video, image and text materials available under Creative Commons licensing. For public domain material, simply search online for "public domain" and the type of material you’re interested in. Some useful sites include: Project Gutenberg (the largest collection of copyright-free books online) and Wikipedia, which has an entire page dedicated to public domain resources.

For other online materials, a recommended best practice is to check the website's “Terms of Use”, or “Legal Notices” section to confirm what conditions apply to use of the website's material. In many cases, you may be able to use the material for free for non-commercial and educational purposes.

See Alternatives to Copyright.

2.11 Is it okay to use images or other material 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, they have to either fall within one of the Copyright Act's exceptions (such as fair dealing or the educational use of the Internet exception), or be open access or in the public domain. If what you want to use isn't from an open access or public domain source and does not fall into one of the Act's exceptions you will have to obtain permission from the copyright owner. You should check the website's “Terms of Use”, or “Legal Notices” section to confirm what conditions apply to use of the website's material, including whether educational use is explicitly prohibited. Many websites will allow non-commercial educational use of their materials. 

See For Instructors and the Media Library's Images and Films and Videos research guides for more details.

2.12 Do I need to ask permission to link to a website?

Content on the web is copyright-protected in the same way as print and other formats, even if there is no copyright symbol or notice. Linking directly to the web page containing the content you wish to use is almost always permissible, although you should try to make sure the content you are linking to is not in itself infringing copyright. In addition, if the web page 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.

If you have reason to believe that the web site may contain content posted without the permission of the copyright owner, you should avoid linking to it. In addition, you must comply with web site statements indicating that permission is required before material is reproduced or that it may not be reproduced at all. Such statements are typically found in sections titled “Terms of Use” or something similar.

See Linking to Full-Text Articles and E-books.

2.13 I gave a PowerPoint presentation in class which includes figures, charts, diagrams and other images from a textbook. Can I post it on uOttawa's Virtual Campus? I’ll be sure to cite where the figures came from.

As long as you adhere to the amounts that may be copied under fair dealing you may post charts and diagrams from textbooks, or other works, on Virtual Campus. If for example, you wish to post multiple images from a book, you may do so as long as those images amount to no more than 10% of the book (see the Fair Dealing Guidelines for details). It’s important to note that, if you wish to post such material to a website, that website must be password protected or otherwise restricted to students enrolled in your course. See Using Virtual Campus.

Please note that just because you acknowledge the author and source of a work doesn’t mean you won’t be liable for copyright infringement. Acknowledging the source is no defence if the way in which you’ve used the work is not permitted under the Copyright Act. So make sure you either fall within an exception or have the copyright owner’s permission.

2.14 May I post examples of my students’ work on my Virtual Campus course or on my personal website?

Only if you have the student’s permission. The University does get the right to make copies of the work for academic purposes, but this right does not extend to making it available online. Accordingly, you should ask students in advance whether they consent to having their work posted online and keep written records of the permissions given.

3. Copyright in the library (Reserves, Interlibrary Loan & e-resources)
3.1 What kind of print materials will the Reserves service accept for inclusion?
  • personal materials of instructors, for which they own the copyright (e.g. assignment questions/solutions)
  • original print books, textbooks, DVDs, CDs, etc.
3.2 Where can I get some information regarding inter-library loans?

The University Library offers an inter-library loan service, with staff available to assist you – see Interlibrary Loan.

3.3 What are licences for electronic resources?

The University Library has contracts with a variety of vendors and publishers that provide the campus with thousands of electronic resources (databases, e-journals, e-books, etc.) costing millions of dollars per year.

In addition to paying for these resources, the Library negotiates licence agreements that stipulate how and by whom a given resource may be used. Users must be currently registered faculty, students, or staff. Only these individuals will be registered with the proxy server for off-campus access. Access for the general public is made available through terminals within the Library.

If licence terms are violated by anyone, licensors may temporarily suspend access for the entire university community. In cases where a resolution cannot be reached, the vendor may have the right to permanently revoke a licence and access to the resource.

You can help prevent such problems by adhering to good practices and avoiding improper use. Here are some rules of thumb.

Usually OK:

  • making a limited number of print or electronic copies for your personal use
  • using materials for personal, instructional or research needs
  • sharing with uOttawa faculty, staff and students
  • posting links to specific content

Not OK:

  • systematic or substantial printing, copying or downloading (such as entire journal issues)
  • selling or re-distributing content, or providing access to someone outside of the university community, such as an employer
  • systematic sharing with people other than registered uOttawa faculty, staff and students
  • posting actual content or articles to third party web sites or listservs (online mailing lists)
  • modifying or altering the contents of licensed resources in any way

Always acknowledge your source on any published or unpublished document when you use data found on electronic resources.

Grey areas: Some licence agreements make express allowances for electronic reserves, course packs, multiple copies for classroom use and interlibrary lending. Other licences may prohibit one or more of these activities – see Using Electronic Resources. If you have questions about a particular resource, please contact

4. Copyright and course packs
4.1 Do I need to obtain permission to use copyright material in my course packs?

Under fair dealing, short excerpts of copyright-protected material may be included in course packs without permission. See the Fair Dealing Guidelines for details. In addition some material covered by licences that the Library has for electronic resources may be included in course packs.

Any materials that you would like to include in courseware are assessed by clearance staff for copyright clearance requirements. This includes materials from the Internet, government publications, and unpublished works, not just books and journals. Providing details such as book/journal title, web address, author name, ISBN/ISSN number, page range and total number of pages in a book will help to confirm permission more quickly. If you have any questions about copyright materials you would like to include, please contact the Copyright Office at 613-562-5800 ext. 3105 or by email at

4.2 Do I need to obtain permission if I want copyright protected material printed on campus?
Icon of a printer

It depends. If the amount and purpose of the copying is covered by fair dealing, or another exception, or a licence that the Library has for electronic resources, you will not need express permission. If, for example, you want copies printed for classroom handout, and the amount to be copied is consistent with fair dealing, you will not need permission. If, however, what you want to copy is not covered by fair dealing, or another exception, or a Library licence, permission will be needed. Any material submitted for printing is checked for copyright clearance. If you have permission to copy the item from the copyright owner, please provide documentation for the permission when submitting your order. If you do not have permission, clearance staff will seek to obtain permission were required.

There are some special cases, such as reproducing entire out-of-print books or rare/fragile materials, which may take longer for copyright clearance. When you place your order, the clearance staff can assess what copyright clearance may be required. If you have any questions regarding copyright, please contact the Copyright Office.

4.3 If I have permission to put something on uOttawa's Virtual Campus, does this mean I can also include it in my courseware?

If the copy posted to Virtual Campus is covered by fair dealing, it is likely that the copy can be included in courseware without permission. However, if the copy posted to Virtual Campus is permitted under a licence agreement between uOttawa and the publisher, it is necessary to consult the licence agreement to determine whether a copy may also be included in courseware. Some copyright holders will grant users permission to put information on password-secured websites, like uOttawa's Virtual Campus, but not to put the information in print format. Clearance staff must confirm whether permission is required separately, even if the information is already on Virtual Campus – for this, please contact the Copyright Office at 613-562-5800 ext. 3105 or by email at

4.4 Why is there sometimes a fee for copyright material used in courseware?

Copyright holders and creators of works have the right to charge a fee for the use of their materials unless the use is otherwise covered by fair dealing, another exception, or a Library licence. These fees vary, usually based on the number of pages or excerpts copied and the number of copies made. All copyright charges are collected on behalf of the copyright holders and remitted to them.

5. Copyright contacts and resources
5.1 Who do I talk to at uOttawa if I have a copyright question?

Please contact the Copyright Office located in Room 140 in Morisset Hall. They can either be contacted by phone at 613-562-5800 ext. 3105 or by email at

5.2 Is there anyone available to help me obtain copyright permission?

For general materials used in class, on Virtual Campus, or in a course pack, contact the Copyright Office at 613-562-5800 ext 3105 or by email at For use of film and images in class or on Virtual Campus, try contacting the University’s Media Library.

For other uses, you may obtain permission yourself by simply emailing or writing a letter to the copyright owner. 

Contains materials adapted from Waterloo Copyright FAQ by the University of Waterloo – licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial Share-Alike 2.5 Canada Licence.

If you have any questions related to copyright that are not answered in these pages, please contact the Copyright Office. 

Back to top