Copyright for Students

Humber College expects students to comply with the copying limits of the Canadian Copyright Act. Email with any questions.

Be a cool cat not a copy cat - know the law so you don’t break the law.


Test Yourself: Take the Copyright Quiz

  1. Read the Copying Limits and Copyright Answers sections below to prepare.
  2. Go to the Copyright Quiz for Humber students.

Copying Limits >

Canadian law allows you to copy only part of a work (a short excerpt) without the copyright owner’s permission if the use is for education, research, private study, criticism or review, news reporting, parody or satire.

Copyright infringement happens when you copy more than the limits allowed by law. Read the Copyright Answers section to understand the limits listed below.

Remember to cite the source of the work you use.

YES - You Can Copy or Use

Print Sources

  • One book chapter
  • One article from a journal, magazine or newspaper
  • One table, diagram, map or chart from a book
  • One photo, painting or image from a book
  • One musical score from a songbook
  • OR 10% from any print source

Online Sources

  • Internet content uploaded by the copyright owner
  • Authorized YouTube videos
  • Creative Commons images, music and videos
  • Public domain works

NO - Don't Copy or Use

  • An entire book
  • More than one chapter or 10% of a book
  • Anything that you haven't cited
  • Pirated books from websites
  • Illegally posted YouTube videos
  • Password-protected Internet content
  • Content accessed by breaking a digital lock
  • Songs or videos from iTunes, Netflix, 8tracks, etc

Copyright Answers >

How does copyright work?

  • Copyright serves two equally important objectives - to provide creators with the ability to get paid for the use of their work and to permit the use of creators' work for the public good.
  • When someone (including yourself) creates an original work they are the copyright owner.
  • The work does not need to be registered and the symbol © is not required for it to be protected under the law.

Do I own copyright in my work?

  • Yes, you own the copyright for your student works such as assignments, papers, artwork, web development, photographs etc.
  • If someone (including your instructor) wants to copy or share your student work they must obtain your permission and/or follow the copyright guidelines under the Canadian Copyright Act.

What is the public domain?

  • The rights of copyright owners are time-limited (i.e. they expire). In Canada, copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.
  • Once that time has elapsed the work enters the public domain.
  • It is possible for the copyright owner to release their work to the public domain for anyone to use, for free.
  • When using any work whether in the public domain or not, you must cite your source. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism and may be subject to academic penalty.

How much can I copy from a book or journal?

  • One book chapter, one article OR 10% of a copyright-protected work, whichever suits your needs.
  • For example:
    • If a book is 480 pages, you can copy any 48 pages from that book.
    • If a book is 480 pages, you can copy one chapter even if it is 55 pages.
    • If a journal issue is 210 pages, you can copy any 21 pages from that issue.
    • You can copy many images from pages that do not exceed 10% of the work.

What can I copy from the Internet?

  • Section 30.04 of the Copyright Act allows students to reproduce, save, download and distribute publicly available material from the Internet as long as:
    1. the content has been posted by the copyright holder
    2. the content is not password-protected (Ex: members-only section)
    3. there is no visible notice prohibiting the copying
    4. the source and author/creator is cited

YouTube videos are okay to use, right?

  • It depends on who owns the rights to the video.
  • If the copyright owner uploaded the video on YouTube then go ahead and use it.
  • Watch this YouTube and Copyright tutorial for details.

What is a digital lock?

  • A digital lock is any technology that controls copying or access to material.
  • The Copyright Act prohibits breaking a digital lock for any reason, including for educational purposes.
  • Examples of digital locks:
    • Encryption on DVDs
    • Serial-key validation on software
    • YouTube's share features. You can only embed and link to the videos but not download them.

Can I use songs or videos from iTunes, Netflix or 8tracks, etc. in class or at school events?

  • No. These services have licence agreements that restrict their content to personal use.
  • Licence agreements take precedence over fair dealing and other users' rights.
  • Music alternatives: Library CDs or the Music Online eResource.

What sources can I use to make a mash-up?

  • Section 29.21 of the Copyright Act allows for the use an existing work in the creation and dissemination of a new work.
  • This means that you can combine and modify short excerpts, Internet content and music or video clips as long as the original sources are from the copyright holder and the sources are cited.
  • You cannot break a digital lock to get the sources for the mash-up.

Can I use music in a podcast I am making?

  • If you want to use pre-recorded music (music you didn't write and perform yourself) in a podcast it is important to first consider how and why you are using it.
  • If you want to play the entire song uninterrupted, you would most likely be violating the copyright of the person who owns the music.
  • If however you play a short clip of a song amounting to no more than 30 seconds and you go on to discuss some aspect of the song (its relevance to the topic of your podcast, etc.) then your use of the song would likely be allowed under a number of the Fair Dealing purposes in the Copyright Act.
  • For simplicity, we advise whenever possible that you use music published under a Creative Commons license (see Sources You Can Use).
  • Any use of traditionally copyright protected music should be kept to as brief a snippet as possible and be relevant in some way to the content of your podcast.
  • Remember to cite the source of any copyright protected music that you use.

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