Revised on May 2015
This guide explains your rights and duties when you want to copy or communicate copyrighted material in the classroom. It clarifies which uses require the securing of permission from rights holders, and which do not.
The Waterloo copyright frequently asked questions (FAQ) and the Fair Dealing Advisory provide additional detail about copying for instructional purposes as well as other purposes. FAQ 3.8 describes library licenses for electronic resources and the limitations a license may place on copying.
Copying short excerpts
Supreme Court decisions in 2004 and 2012 have expanded the circumstances under which instructors may use copyright-protected material in the classroom without securing permission or paying royalties.
In particular, teachers, instructors, professors and staff in non-profit institutions may now communicate or make copies of a short excerpt of a work, in paper or electronic format, for each student enrolled in a class or course.
Section 3 of the university’s Fair Dealing Advisory indicates that:
"A single copy of a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work may be provided or communicated to each student enrolled in a class or course:
as a class handout;
as a posting to a learning or course management system that is password protected or otherwise restricted to students of the university; or
as part of a course pack."
Short excerpts may also be included in lecture notes displayed to students in classrooms.
Section 4 of the Advisory defines a short excerpt as:
- up to 10% of a copyright-protected work (including a literary work musical score, sound recording, and an audiovisual work);
- one chapter from a book;
- a single article from a periodical publication;
- an entire individual artistic work (including a painting, print, photograph, diagram, drawing, map, chart, and plan);
- an entire newspaper article or page;
- an entire single poem or musical work from a publication containing other poems or musical scores; and
- an entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary or similar reference work provided that in each case no more of the work is copied than is required in order to achieve the allowable purpose.
Note: you may not make copies of multiple short excerpts from the same work for the same group of students during any one term. Doing so would have the effect of providing a copy of substantially the entire work and that is not allowed under fair dealing.
Copying more than a short excerpt of a work
Under some circumstances you may communicate or copy more than is permitted under fair dealing without the direct permission of a copyright holder. In other cases, you must have direct permission. The points below apply to both print and electronic copies.
Works that may be copied without seeking permission
Works that are in the public domain, i.e. they are no longer protected by copyright (in Canada, copyright protection generally expires 50 years after the death of the creator).
Works that have a Creative Commons licence; such licences often allow others to reproduce an entire work as long as it is properly attributed and not intended for commercial use. Creative Commons licences are typically used for Open Access material.
Electronic works for which the University of Waterloo Library, or some other department, has a licence. These licences allow you to share material with your students in specified ways. At the very least, you may give your students a link to the resource. 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. If you have questions about a particular resource, please contact Lauren Byl or Ian Robson.
Works covered by another exception in the Copyright Act.
Works that may be copied only with permission
Substantial portions of any work not in the public domain, without a Creative Commons licence, not covered under another exception in the Copyright Act, or for which the University has no other licence, may be communicated or copied only with the express permission of the copyright holder. Because such permissions take time to obtain and may include a fee (sometimes quite high), you are encouraged to take advantage of the huge array of licensed electronic resources available through the library. Using those resources whenever possible can cut costs for your students as well as the university at large. If a licence prohibits copying for eReserves or a coursepack, the Library or Bookstore may be able to obtain clearance for you.
Note: If you wish to copy a work for which permission is required, you must get such permission before making the copy(s) and retain a written or email copy of the permission. If your right to make the copy is questioned at a later time, you will need to show evidence that you made the copy with permission from the copyright owner.
Using web content
Materials freely available on the Internet are treated the same under copyright law as any other copyright materials, so if you want to use them, they either have to 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. Note: the person who posted the material may not be the copyright owner and may not have the right to grant you permission to use the material. If this is the case, you should not use the material unless you can identify and obtain the copyright owner’s permission.