Copyright Overview

It is the responsibility of all Humber faculty, staff, and students to comply with Canadian copyright law and to copy and distribute materials in accordance with institutional policies. The copyright team in the Library is here to help you navigate copyright issues in your teaching, learning, and research activities.

Review the sections below to understand more about what copyright is and the policies at Humber that detail how to properly copy, share, and distribute copyrighted material.

The other sections of this site detail:

  • How different types of materials (books, videos, web content, etc.) can be used for teaching;
  • How adopting open educational resources (OERs) can provide more equitable access to learning materials; and
  • How the copyright team can provide faculty, staff, and students with seamless access to a wide range of course materials.

If your planned use of a copyrighted work is not addressed by any of the college policies OR your use would exceed the limits of these policies, contact us at and we can analyze the options available.

Copyright Basics

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that protects a creator's legal right to produce, reproduce, publish, or perform an original literary, artistic, dramatic, or musical work.

Here are some key things to know about copyright:

  • An original work is automatically protected by copyright the moment it is created. Even if you do not see a © symbol at the end of an article in a newspaper, the article is still protected by copyright.
  • The creator of a work is usually the copyright owner; however, an employer may have copyright in works created by employees.
  • There is no copyright protection for ideas or facts, but copyright protects the expression of an idea, whether it is written and turned into a book, composed and put on a CD, or filmed and streamed online.
  • The Copyright Act of Canada attempts to find the appropriate balance between creator rights and user rights.
  • After a set period (in Canada it is 70 years after the death of the author) a work is no longer protected by copyright, and it enters the public domain.

The Copyright Act contains several exceptions and limits on the use of copyrighted material. Humber’s Copyright Policy provides an overview of the main criteria for determining when and how a user may copy and share a work without the copyright owner’s permission.

We encourage employees to review the policy and contact if they have any questions.

The next section provides an overview of Fair Dealing, the key exception in the Copyright Act, which guides how copyrighted works can be used for educational purposes.

Fair Dealing

Fair Dealing is a user right contained in the Copyright Act. Fair dealing allows you to copy from a copyrighted work, without the copyright owner’s permission, if:

  • the copy is for one of the allowable purposes: research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review or news reporting; and
  • your dealing (use) is fair.

The Copyright Act does not clearly define what is “fair”. Various court decisions have come to define six factors that must be considered before a dealing (copying, sharing, etc.) can be determined fair:

  • The purpose of the dealing
    • Is it for one of the allowable purposes?
  • The character of the dealing
    • Making a single copy of something is usually seen as more “fair” than making multiple copies.
  • The amount of the dealing
    • What proportion of the total work is being copied?
  • The alternatives to the dealing
    • Could your purpose (teaching, etc.) been achieved without using this copyrighted material?
  • The nature of the work involved
    • A work that is publicly available is seen as more “fair” to copy than an unpublished work.
  • The effect of the dealing on the work
    • If your use of a copyrighted work is likely to compete with and/or harm the economic value of the original work, the dealing will tend to be less fair.

In order to avoid college employees having to perform a Fair Dealing analysis every time they interact with copyrighted material, Humber has enacted a Fair Dealing Policy based on legal analysis from Colleges and Institutes Canada.

We encourage employees to review the policy, so they understand how short excerpts of copyrighted works can be copied and distributed. Specific examples about what is allowed under the policy can be found on this site under Format & Media Type.

Choose from the list to find library resources specific to that type.