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Pedagogical Development Office

Teaching Tip: Copyright, Copywrong

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© Image: renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Copyright is a form of intellectual property that gives “the right to copy,” and defines who can be credited with a work, as well as who may adapt, perform, benefit financially from a work, and other related rights. Examples of works which are protected by copyright are books, articles, letters, emails, photographs, films, maps, music, art, and computer programs. In Canada, copyright is automatic and, in general, lasts the life of the creator plus fifty years. Canada grants the same protection to foreign works.

Questions of copyright are above all questions of law. Canada is one of the few countries where copyright violations fall under both the civil and criminal codes. Copyright violation convictions at Vanier would come with a maximum $20,000 fine for the College and a risk of fine or imprisonment for the individual (subsection 787(1) of the Criminal Code). Ignorance is not a defense. In Quebec, any individual or organization who wants to reproduce a literary work can contact COPIBEC in order to obtain a comprehensive license or specific authorization. Normally the Bookstore does this for course modules. If you have any doubts about your particular situation, a Vanier librarian can help guide you to resources.

For individuals, copying part of a work for private study or research is allowed without permission. However, for teachers the biggest point of confusion comes from a comparison of American and Canadian Law. In the United States, the current laws allow for classroom use of an excerpt of a copyrighted work without payment or permission required. In Canada, there is no such educational clause: payment to rights-holders is required for any use.

To illustrate what that means for us, here are some common classroom examples:

  • Fair use is not permitted for the purpose of teaching, including the use of any portion of any work on the Internet, and includes posting portions of any work on a restricted access Web site for students.
  • In class, any showing of films, videos or Youtube clips requires payment to or permission from rights holders. If you’re showing a film from the Library, the College has already paid for this permission, but any other source is probably not permitted.
  • Outside of class, performances on radio, TV, and CD cannot be communicated electronically to students unless permission is obtained and payment made even for foreign works.
  • Making multiple copies of a work, including class sets, requires payment to rights holders. This is why we’re required to provide publication information to the Bookstore when submitting course modules – the Bookstore has an agreement with COPIBEC, through which we pay for permission to print copyrighted material. Part of the cost of each individual course module helps to cover the cost of that permission.
  • In Canada, copies of journal articles can only be delivered in paper format without further copyright dues. Electronic delivery requires further permission and payment to the rights holder or a collective representing the rights holder. If you download an article from some of the library databases at Vanier, this payment may have already been made. Each database and publisher has different agreements.

As you can see, copyright laws are quite strict, especially in Quebec: basically you have to have permission from the copyright holder or you have to pay for any use. One glimmer of hope is that the Canadian copyright laws are in the process of being updated and an “educational use” clause is on the table.

For more information on Copyright check out our Brown Bag Lunch notes here

Pedagogical Development Office
Vanier College