Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Copyright Guide for Faculty: The Basics


The JIBC Library is here to provide support for our instructors and staff on copyright compliance, in following with the JIBC Copyright Compliance Policy, the JIBC Copyright Compliance Procedure, and the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42).  This guide is designed to aid our staff in proper presentation of educational material. It is not legal advice.

All JIBC faculty and staff must follow the JIBC Fair Dealing Policy when using third-party materials in course manuals, course packs, handouts, and posting to Blackboard courses. The JIBC Fair Dealing Policy is based upon the Colleges and Institutes Canada's (CICan) Fair Dealing Guidelines, published in 2012. Visit the Fair Dealing section of this guide for information as to what you can copy or post, or how to find alternative material.


  • Everything is copyrighted. Registration is not required, nor is the presence of the copyright symbol (©) to denote copyright.
  • Always cite the source.

Questions? or 604.528.5599

Copyright Basics

1. What is copyright?

2. How can I tell if a work is covered by copyright?

3. What is "public domain"?

4. What is "fair dealing? What does it allow me to do?

5. Can I modify/adapt works?

6. What happens if I infringe copyright?

1. What is copyright?

In Canada, copyright is a federal responsibility and its rules are set out in the Copyright Act . The Copyright Act grants the owner of the copyright the sole right to reproduce the entire work or a substantial part of the work (these rights are subject to the fair dealing and educational exceptions). An insubstantial part of a work may be copied without infringing copyright (remember to cite your sources).

2. How can I tell is a work is covered by copyright?

Once somebody writes down, records, performs, or puts it in some tangible form, their original idea belongs to them and it is copyrighted -- even if they have not applied for copyright protection (there is no requirement to register copyright in Canada nor does the work have to show a ©).

This copyright protection exists until 50 years after the creator's death. After that, works enter the public domain unless the creator's estate asserts copyright.

Assume the work is covered by copyright unless there is information associated with the content that states otherwise.

Authors may waive all or part of their copyrights. When an author has waived all rights, the work is in the public domain. When part rights have been waived (such as with a Creative Commons license) the work may be used within the terms of the license without having to seek permission (see the Open Access tab). 

3. What is public domain?

The phrase "public domain" is a copyright term referring to works that are free for everyone to use without asking for permission or paying royalties.

Works can be in the public domain for a variety of reasons: because the term of copyright protection has expired; because the work was not eligible for copyright protection in the first place; or because the copyright owner has given the copyright in the work to the public domain.

"In Canada, most works pass into the public domain after fifty years following the end of the calendar year in which the author died. However, while a work may be in the public domain, a specific edition or image of the work may be under copyright. This is important to remember."University of Toronto: Definition Public Domain in Canada

4. What is Fair Dealing? What does it allow me to do?

Fair dealing is an exception in the Copyright Act that allows limited copying for the purposes of research, private study, review, criticism, or news reporting. See the Fair Dealing tab for guidelines.

5. Can I modify/adapt works?

Creating new works often involves building on the earlier works of others.  From a copyright perspective, when is building on the works of others considered a proper inspiration and when is it considered improper infringement?  Even courts have difficulty drawing the line between the two. Paraphrasing vs. adapting? What’s the difference?  When do I need permission?

Quoting, Paraphrasing and Summarizing

For a simple explanation of each of these terms, see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing (Purdue OWL)
You can quote and paraphrase or summarize in your own words without getting permission.  Make sure to always cite your sources.  
At JIBC we use the APA citation style.

Adapting or Modifying

Adapting is where the idea is substantially someone else’s and the addition of new material may be for the purpose of clarification or expanding 
on the data, but it contains at its core another’s expression of a concept or idea.  In this case, you need permission to adapt, and the source 
should also be credited.

You may adapt insubstantial amounts without permission -- use only what is necessary to express the concept for the purpose of criticism and
review.  For further guidance, publishers may provide guidelines on their website as to what constitutes an insubstantial amount.

If the depiction or the expression is entirely new, but has at its core an idea or concept attributed to another’s work then it may be cited 
as “based on” research/data or a paper by “X”.  You do not need to seek permission.

Remember: plagiarism is the use of another’s ideas, or expression of ideas, without acknowledgment.

6. What happens if I infringe copyright?

If you infringe copyright, you will be held liable for that action. While criminal penalties are usually reserved for those engaged in piracy for profit, civil penalties, including an order to pay damages or an injunction to cease infringing, can be imposed for other types of infringement. Monetary damages could be awarded to the copyright owner for loss of income occasioned by the infringement or for other losses.

Generally, the person who actually infringes the rights of the copyright owner will be held liable for the infringement, whether that person be a student, staff member, or faculty member. 

What You Can Copy Legally

 It is lawful to copy without permission or payment:

Fair Dealing Some copying is possible under the concept of "fair dealing" (see the Fair Dealing tab for guidelines). 
Insubstantial Portions of Works 

The Copyright Act does not define what proportion of a work is insubstantial. The courts have held that both the quality and the quantity of what is copied must be considered.

Examples of insubstantial use may include quoting selected sentences from an article, book, poem or song and displaying short clips from a film or TV production.

Government of Canada Works

Government of Canada material can be reproduced for personal or public non-commercial purposes unless there is a specific indication to the contrary attached to the work.

This includes federal statutes and regulations and the decisions of courts and tribunals.

Similarly, the Government of Ontario permits anyone to copy its laws, statutes, and judicial decisions without permission or payment of royalties.

Works in the Public Domain This means works that are no longer protected by copyright, and therefore can be freely copied.
Open Access Material  Material presented for public use, including Open Access publications, works placed in Institutional Repositories, and works under Creative Commons licenses, may typically be copied with minimal restrictions (see the Open Access tab).

Providing an internet link to a work does not constitute "copying" and does not require permission or payment (the source of the linked material must be indicated). 

Republishing the material in a separate website or document is typically not allowed, although permission can often be obtained for such use (see the Digital tab).

Licensed Material

JIBC purchases licenses from digital content providers to allow the use of digital works.

Library staff can advise if particular content is part of the licensed collection, what use can be made of it, and what attribution requirements exist (see the Digital tab).


Creative Commons License
This work [chart above] is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.