The Copyright Act is a federal law which you must ensure to follow whenever you reproduce or distribute someone else’s copyrighted works.
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Works in the public domain belong to the public and are free to use without permission.
Typically, copyright lasts for 50 years after the copyright owner has died - after that the work is in the public domain.
For example, the works of Shakespeare and Mozart are in the public domain and can be republished by others, without permission from a copyright owner. For more about the public domain, see: Government of Canada, About copyright. - Opens in a new window
You should still cite public domain content in your academic work. Although public domain content may be copyright free and citing is not legally required, citing all content that is the work of others is still required by most college Academic Integrity policies.
The licenses that Creative Commons produces make it easy for both creators and consumers to identify the legal options for the use, modification, or sale of creative works.
There are a variety of materials online that have a Creative Commons license (you can search by license here - Opens in new window. These licenses allow the use of material under certain conditions. You always have to cite your sources but there other conditions that may apply (like non-commercial use, or you’re not allowed to modify it, etc.).
Sites with Creative Commons materials include the following:
There is no doubt that copyright can be complicated. If you have questions, make your college library your first stop! See links to Ontario College copyright guides on this page. And see the resources listed below to learn more.
Check your library for any of these helpful titles:
Copyright is a law that protects moral and economic rights of content creators. Copyright has rights for both creators and users in an effort to create a balanced and fair use of copyrighted works. There are also exceptions available, such as fair dealing, consult your college's copyright policies to learn more.
In Canada, copyright protection is automatic upon the creation of a work. As soon as you produce something original in fixed form (written, video, audio on a CD, etc.) you own the copyright for that item (unless you’ve agreed to sign it over to someone else). Only the copyright owner has the right to decide when and how the work is used (from The Copyright Act Opens in new window).
And remember even if a work does not have a copyright symbol ©, the work is still protected under The Copyright Act.
Check the list in the next tab to find your college's copyright policies. Policies differ from college to college so make sure you are following the proper guidelines.
If you are found infringing on The Copyright Act you could:
Colleges in Ontario each have their own copyright policies, consult your local contact for copyright:
Fair dealing is a section in the copyright act which permits the use of a copyrighted work without permission from the copyright owner. Fair Dealing allows you to copy a short excerpt from a copyright-protected work. Short excerpts mean you can copy up to 10 percent of a copyrighted work such as:
You can use these materials for the following purposes: research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review or news reporting.
It is NOT fair to copy multiple short excerpts from the same copyright-protected work.
You must consider the following Fair Dealing Factors before you copy or distribute a work:
Films and media are shown in the classroom and can be used to help you write an assignment or in a presentation. There are a few things you need to know when using a film in your assignments.
A digital lock is also called technological protection measure (TPM) or digital rights management (DRM), and it is basically any technology that controls or restricts access to or copying of a work. The Copyright Act prohibits breaking or circumventing digital locks for the use of copyrighted works, even in cases where the use would be allowed under user exceptions such as fair dealing.
Examples of a digital lock on a film: