Using material in class under Copyright Act


Under Canada’s Copyright Act, authors are the first owners of copyright in their works unless the author created the material as an employee. Authors can exercise their rights themselves or they can appoint a representative such as an agent or licensing agency to exercise the rights on their behalf.

How the Copyright Act affects the use of material in the classroom

The most common in-class activities that are subject to copyright are photocopying and digitizing excerpts from copyright protected works, displaying them on smartboards, presenting films/movies and listening to music. As a general rule, those uses are among authors’ exclusive rights under the Copyright Act.

To help ensure a balance between the needs of educational institutions and the rights of authors and publishers while allowing teaching personnel to easily and legally use excerpts from works, the education sector has signed copying agreements with various licensing agencies.

Copibec has issued licences to the three major education sectors (preschool, elementary/high school, college and university) so that users can copy excerpts from literary works (books, textbooks, newspapers, magazines, periodicals, etc.) in print or digital format.

Your institution may also have agreements with other licensing agencies in Quebec or elsewhere in Canada. Please refer to the Who should I contact? section for more information.

In general, the licensing agreements negotiated by Copibec with the various education sectors create a simple, secure operating framework that meets all the institutions’ needs for copying and using excerpts from works. Personnel in schools, college institutions and universities should therefore refer to their Copibec licence to find out which uses are allowed and how the parties have interpreted them.

The Copyright Act also contains a few exceptions. However, some of them only came into effect recently and have not yet been clearly defined. New exceptions in the Act authorize certain uses in class with students for educational purposes, such as displaying an excerpt from a work on a smartboard as long as the work is not commercially available for purchase. The use of works that are legally available from a freely accessible website is also allowed as long as there is no clearly visible notice prohibiting the use of the work or there is no technological measure limiting access to the work.

The Act’s fair dealing exception for research and private study has been expanded to include parody, satire and education purposes. Any use in an educational setting is not automatically considered fair dealing. A case-by-case analysis is necessary to determine whether the fair dealing exception applies.

Neither the Copyright Act nor the courts have specified a percentage or number of pages that may be copied under the fair dealing exception. Even though fair dealing for educational purposes is sometimes interpreted as meaning up to 10% of a work or an entire chapter, that interpretation is not founded on the wording of the Act or any ruling by Canadian courts.

Copibec licences are essentials to the education sector. The Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport has renewed its licensing agreement with Copibec on behalf of preschool and elementary/high school institutions and an addendum allowing digital copying has been negotiated. Licensing agreements have also been signed on behalf of colleges/CEGEPs and universities.

Quebec teachers and professors benefit from agreements ensuring that the education sector can copy excerpts from works legally, simply and without any undue administrative burden.

Persons with perceptual disabilities

Making large-print copies of books is allowed under the Copibec licence for preschool and elementary/high school institutions. At the college and university levels, institutions should contact us to request permission because no exceptions in the Copyright Act allow that type of copying.

Copibec also offers a service that lets you quickly obtain works from a number of publishers in an appropriate format (e.g. for use with software such as WordQ). The Act allows certain copying activities such as digitizing a book or textbook but only if the work is not sold in an appropriate format. If an appropriate format is available, the work must be purchased.

Would you like to know more about this service? Do you have questions? Please do not hesitate to contact us.