Exceptions to copyright


The Copyright Act includes a number of exceptions through which a copyright-protected work may be used without requiring permission. For the purposes of the University, the primary exceptions of interest include the:

  • Fair dealing exception; and
  • Educational exceptions.

Take a look at Alternatives to copyright and Creative Commons and open access if your intended use of a work does not fall under these copyright exceptions.

Fair dealing exception

The University of Ottawa has a set of Fair dealing guidelines, which you should take the time to review. The fair dealing exemption in the Copyright Act provides that fair dealing with a copyright-protected work for one of the following eight purposes: research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire, or parody, does not infringe copyright. Any fair dealing for the purpose of news reporting, criticism or review must however mention the source and, if given in the source, the name of the author or creator of the work.

To fall within the fair dealing exemption, a dealing, e.g., copying or communicating a work, must be for one of the eight purposes and also must be fair. The Supreme Court of Canada has considered the following factors in determining whether a dealing is fair:

  • The purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire, or parody;
  • The character of the proposed copying, including whether it involves single or multiple copies, and whether the copy is destroyed after it is used for its specific intended purpose;
  • The amount or proportion of the work which is proposed to be copied and the importance of that work;
  • Alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyright-protected equivalent available;
  • The nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and
  • The effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.

Educational exceptions

Under the educational exceptions in the Copyright Act, a variety of situations may dictate your use of a copyright-protected work:

A work may be copied for display in class (e.g., lecture presentation) or copied, translated or performed for an exam or test, so long as the material is:

  1. Copied by the University or a person acting under its authority;
  2. Used for educational and training purposes;
  3. Performed on the premises of the University; and
  4. Not commercially available – a commercially available work may be used if it is manually reproduced (e.g., a diagram drawn on a chalkboard) or if is not available in an appropriate format at a reasonable cost.

You may present the entirety of a performance (live performance, sound recording, audiovisual work) on University premises for non-commercial purposes, so long as it is for the purpose of education or training, the copy was obtained legitimately (e.g., owned, borrowed, rented or transmitted live by telecommunication), and your audience consists primarily of students, instructors, or any person who is directly responsible for setting curriculum at the University.

You may make a single copy of a news program or news commentary, excluding documentaries, at the time of its telecommunication and present the copy, so long as it is presented for educational purposes to an audience consisting primarily of students.

You may make a single copy of a broadcast at the time of its telecommunication and keep it for up to 30 days. If you decide to present the broadcast for educational or training purposes to an audience consisting primarily of students, it may be necessary to pay royalties.

For educational purposes, you may freely copy, play in class, or distribute to students, materials that you have found on the Internet, under the following conditions:

  1. The material was posted legitimately – work available through the Internet may not be reproduced if you know, or should have known, that the work was made available without the consent of the copyright holder;
  2. There is no visible notice prohibiting use – must be something more than the copyright symbol;
  3. There is no digital lock preventing access or copying; and
  4. The source and author of the work are properly acknowledged.

The “Remix” exception

Under section 29.21 of the Copyright Act, it is not a copyright infringement to use existing works to create a new, unique work, through remixing, “mash-ups,” collage or other creative techniques, as long as your use meets these conditions:

  • It is not for commercial purposes.
  • The original materials were published or otherwise made publicly available.  
  • You credit the source and creator of the original materials, if this is reasonable under the circumstances.
  • The original materials you use seem to come from a legitimate source.
  • Your new work does not have a substantial potential impact on the value of the original materials.

As long as you meet these conditions, you can even post your remix or other new, unique work on the internet, though you cannot monetize it. For example, you should not use YouTube’s creator rewards for this type of content, or provide advertisements along with it.

If the intended use of a work does not qualify for any exceptions or there are no adequate alternatives/licences, permission from the copyright holder is required.

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