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Copyright Basics

All members of the Dalhousie University community – faculty, staff and students – have an obligation to comply with the provisions of the Copyright Act of Canada.

Copyright applies to all original works. "Copyright" literally means the right to copy, but is commonly interpreted to mean that body of exclusive rights granted by law to copyright owners for protection of their work. Under the Copyright Act of Canada, the owner of copyright has the exclusive right to reproduce all or a substantial part of a work. Individuals are prohibited from making copies of all or substantial parts of copyright protected works without the consent of the copyright owner. For this reason, someone who copies such works without the permission of the copyright owner may be in violation of the Copyright Act.

What is Copyright?

It is the legal right to publish, sell or reproduce a work by the work's author/creator.  By definition, reproduction can include photocopying, scanning, downloading/uploading and emailing.

What is Fair Dealing?

Described in Section 29 of the Copyright Act of Canada, Fair Dealing permits the limited use of copyright protected material without the risk of infringement and without having to seek the permission of copyright owners. It is intended to provide a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of users. For more detailed information, please visit the Fair Dealing Basics section of our website.

What Works Are Protected?

In Canada, the Copyright Act affords protection to seven categories of works. They are (examples provided are not exhaustive but merely illustrative):

  • Literary - emails, journals, books, newspapers, computer software
  • Dramatic - documentaries, films, plays
  • Artistic - architectural drawings, maps, atlases, stage and costume designs
  • Musical - sheet music, songs with or without words, audio CDs
  • Sound Recording - CDs, talking books, audio books, sound effects
  • Performer's Performance - recorded performances of authors, performers, singers
  • Communication Signal - radio or television signals

In Canada there is no requirement to register your copyright in a work.  Copyright is assigned the moment the work is fixed in some tangible form.  This can include, but is not limited to, saving a work to a hard drive, writing on paper or in an email, or recording to a medium. 

It is, however, recommended to mark your work in some way with the internationally recognized © copyright symbol, or include the word copyright along with your name and the year created.

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office maintains the Canadian Copyright Database and will assist creators who wish to obtain a certificate of registration to prove that they own the copyright for their works.

What Isn't Protected?

Ideas themselves are not eligible for copyright protection.  It is the expression of that idea which is protected.  Also, facts cannot be copyrighted. They are considered to be in the Public Domain.

Who Owns Copyright?

Typically, the owner of copyright in a work is the author/creator.  Only the author/creator can sell, licence or give away copyright in a work.

How Long Does It Last?

The duration of copyright lasts for the author/creator's life until the end of the calendar year in which they die and then for 50 years beyond that.  After the term of copyright expires the work enters the Public Domain.

Observing Copyright on Campus

The Copyright Act dictates that anyone wishing to duplicate, transmit or otherwise distribute a copyright protected work must first obtain permission from the copyright owner.

With that being said, faculty, instructors, researchers, staff and students are generally permitted to copy most of what they require in pursuit of teaching and research on campus because of allowances and exceptions in the Copyright Act itself and/or separate licensing agreements the university has reached with publishers that specifically permit such uses.

Please consult the University's Fair Dealing Guidelines for further information.