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Laurentian University and its faculty, staff and students are both creators and consumers of intellectual property. Consequently, we are morally and legally obligated to respect the intellectual property right of others, just as we expect others to respect our intellectual property rights. Certain intellectual property rights are protected under the Canadian Copyright Act. Members of the Laurentian University community are required to comply with copyright law and Laurentian University copyright requirements. These pages provide some basic guidance on what one can and cannot do with copyrighted works.

Please note that this guide is intended to provide general information only and is not to be construed as legal advice on copyright.


Members of the Laurentian University community are asked to adhere to the Universities Canada Fair Dealing Policy for Universities when reproducing copyright-protected content for their research, teaching and learning, unless otherwise permitted by another exception under the Copyright Act or by a license or specific permission from the copyright holder.

General Copyright Information

The copying of a limited, though not insubstantial, amount of a work for certain purposes may be considered “fair dealing” and, as such, will not require a user to ask permission of a copyright holder or to pay a royalty. 

According to the Copyright Act (see Section 29), the allowable purposes of copying as fair dealing are: (a) research, (b) private study, (c) education, (d) parody or satire, (e) criticism or review and (f) news reporting.  The last two purposes require appropriate mention of the source under the Copyright Act, though, at a university, academic integrity will normally require that sources be indicated in relation to all of these purposes. 

The Copyright Act does not define the amount of copying that is allowable as fair dealing.  Nevertheless, most fair dealing policies of Canadian educational institutions have adopted ten percent (10%) of a work as an amount that would normally be considered “safe” as fair dealing in their settings.  That said, the limit of fair dealing with respect to a given work could be less or more than this, depending upon the characteristics of the work or the circumstances of its use.  Such fair dealing policies also provide for the distribution of the copied content to all students in a course, a position supported by an important 2012 Supreme Court of Canada decision (a link to this is found below: Key Fair Dealing Documents).

The Supreme Court of Canada proposed in 2004 a two-part test for determining whether a use can be considered to be fair dealing.  The first part is to decide whether the use fits generally within one of the fair dealing purposes listed above; the second part, is to consider in detail the use of the work according to six factors: (a) the purpose of the dealing, (b) the character of the dealing, (c) the amount of the dealing, (d) alternatives to the dealing, (e) the nature of the dealing, and (f) the effect of the dealing (on the market for the work).  In 2015 and in 2016, the Copyright Board further clarified the application of these factors in a fair dealing analysis (links to these documents are found below: Key Fair Dealing Documents).

Many Canadian universities have formally adopted a local “Fair Dealing Policy” as a guide for members of the campus community in their use of works under copyright.  Given that many of the typical uses of works at a university are, or could be, undertaken in ways consistent with fair dealing, adherence to a fair dealing policy helps such universities to operate in compliance with copyright law without recourse to a broad license from a copyright collective. 

In 2012, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC, now Universities Canada) published a model Fair Dealing Policy for Universities.  The policy text reflects similar policies developed in the K-12 and community college sectors, and it was adopted, sometimes with local variations by many Canadian universities.  AUCC then followed up in 2013 with a set of more detailed fair dealing policy application guides for Canadian universities (here as adapted on the York University website). 

Laurentian has not to this point formally adopted a local fair dealing policy; nevertheless, practices typically considered to be consistent with fair dealing at other universities should be adopted also by members of the Laurentian community.  

In situations in which fair dealing must be relied upon, the following FAQs may be helpful.


Additional resources

The following documents will be helpful in understanding what can or cannot be done with materials under copyright at Laurentian University under provisions of the Copyright Act.

The key documents of reference in Canada that speak to considerations of fair dealing, aside from the Copyright Act itself, include:

Ideas and facts *

Copyright does not apply ideas or facts (“data”) in themselves, but only to particular expressions of such.  For example, while an author may hold the copyright for their novel, it would not be an infringement of copyright to, say, write and publish a descriptive synopsis of the novel or to “borrow” a plot device from the novel in one’s own writing, especially if no passages from the novel itself were reproduced. As well, it would generally be acceptable to take scientific data from a graph and present them in a table in one’s own work (without reproducing the graph).

The public domain *

Works that have fallen out of copyright because of their age, where applicable, in relation to the death date (known or estimated) of the author, are considered to be in the public domain, so no longer under copyright.  In Canada, in general, works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of their author.  Where the author is a government, content enters the public domain 50 years after its creation.  This “term of copyright” is longer for sound recordings and cinematic works; term of copyright for various media and authorship situations is set out in Sections 6-12 in the Copyright Act.   Users must be careful in their use of content that might seem to be in the public domain, but may not be, in fact.  For example, while the works of Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) are by now in the public domain, the use of a particular edition or translation of his works, if relatively recent, may well be under copyright. 

Insubstantial copying *

The Copyright Board found in May 2015 that the copying of 1-2 pages of a longer work, not constituting more than 2.5% of the whole work (and not from a book of short works, such as poems), would normally be “insubstantial,” so not requiring permission of a copyright holder.  See Section X (ten) B of the 2015 Copyright Board decision on the Provincial and Territorial Governments (2005-2014) tariff.
* It should be noted that, even though copyright may not apply, in a university setting, use of “borrowed” facts and ideas, works in the public domain and “insubstantial” parts of works will normally still require appropriate attribution in the interest of academic integrity.  Any unattributed use of the text or ideas of others might be plagiarism even if it is not a breach of copyright.

Content, such as a journal article or a thesis, that is available online on an “open access” basis (as opposed to being in the public domain) is under copyright, with the copyright most often retained by the author of the work (as opposed to being signed over to a publisher).  Most often, it is through a Creative Commons license or similar that a range of rights are given to users of the content. In using open access materials, it is important to be aware of what can and cannot be done by a user with respect to a work.  See the section above on Creative Commons licenses for further information. 

In cases where publishers of scholarly journals set policy around copyright with respect to open access availability of journal articles, such policies can usually be found either on the website of the publisher or individual journal, or in the Sherpa Romeo database of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies.  For authors who intend to make their articles available in their university’s open access repository (such as LU Zone at Laurentian), it will be important to understand publisher requirements if an author has signed over their copyright to the article publisher.

For more general information on Open Access, especially at Laurentian University, please see the library’s webpage on the topic.

When the use of a copyright-protected work cannot be accommodated under the fair dealing exception or another exception under the Copyright Act, or when the use is not already allowed under the terms of a license, it may be necessary to seek permission for the use from the work’s copyright holder.  

For example, if one wanted to include a graph or a diagram from a journal article in a thesis or a conference presentation slide, it would normally be necessary to obtain permission for this from the publisher of the journal (assuming that the journal holds the copyright) because the public availability of the finished thesis or performance of the conference presentation takes the use of the graph or diagram beyond such fair dealing purposes of education, research or private study.  

To obtain permission, it will be necessary to: 

  • Allow perhaps 6-8 weeks for obtaining a permission
  • Identify the copyright holder; sometimes this is clear from a copyright statement in the publication
  • Make the request either by using a form provided by a publisher or by writing a letter to the copyright holder to explain the intended use of the work
  • Pay a royalty fee if required (it may be necessary to forego use of the work if it is decided that a required royalty fee will not be paid)
  • Retain copies of all correspondence (copyright permissions must be in writing)
  • Use the work as permitted 

Models for permission letters are kindly provided on a number of university websites:

Any necessary copyright permissions for the use of copyrighted content in course packs will normally be sought by the course pack production service on behalf of the course instructor requesting the course pack.  It is important to ensure that all necessary copyright clearance is being carried out by the course pack service.

The Copyright Act makes allowance for the creation or provision of alternative/adaptive formats for the use of persons with perceptual disabilities.  The Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL) has created an Accessibility Information Toolkit for Libraries that includes useful information on Canadian Copyright and accessibility.

The Copyright Committee of the Canadian Council of Archives (CCA) provides some helpful Copyright Information for Archives and Archivists on its website.

A number of Canadian universities have provided considerable copyright guidance to their campus communities.  Without our necessarily endorsing, in the Laurentian context, all of the content in their copyright web pages, we provide links to several very well-developed copyright web pages made available by and for other universities.  There may well be helpful copyright information there.