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Basics of Copyright

Copyright in the Classroom: How is the Internet Changing Things?

Educators have long relied on a range of instructional media to support learning. Books, reports, drawings, sculptures, photos, video, and audio are all examples of creative media that instructors might choose to use in an educational context. At some point the book had to be written, the photo shot, or the drawing drawn. Through history the concept of intellectual property has emerged and evolved to ascribe value, whether moral or economic, to original creative works that merit legal protection. One specific form of legal protection is copyright. It is a common practice for educators to use a range of creative works as part of the process of teaching. Many of these works are copyright protected and misuse could result in legal consequences. Whether the work is in print, video, audio or some other form, copyright is an important concept for both educators and students to understand.

With the advent of the internet, copyright laws around the world are being amended and re-written to account for this technology and all of the content that is being produced and/or distributed online, everyday. In Europe, the United States, and now Canada, copyright legislation is undergoing a transformation intended to bring now outdated laws into the new digital age.

This site intends to provide some basic information on copyright, some discussion on historical and current issues related to copyright, and some great links to external resources. This wiki is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive right to copy a creative work or allow someone else to do so. It includes the sole right to publish, produce or reproduce, to perform in public, to communicate a work to the public by telecommunication, to translate a work, and in some cases, to rent the work.[1]

Copyright law in Canada is regulated under the Canadian Copyright Act While copyright law may differ from country to country, international agreements exist[2] between many of the worlds nations that ensure cooperation, where appropriate, in the enforcement of respective copyright laws. In Canada, copyright owners are entitled to recourse under the law when their rights are infringed upon.

Copyright applies to all original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works. These include books, otherwritings, music, sculptures, paintings, photographs, films, plays, television and radio programs, and computer programs. Copyright also applies to other subject matter including sound recordings (such as records, cassettes, and tapes), performer's performances, and communication signals.

Names, ideas, themes, most titles, catch-phrases, and other short-word combinations of no considerable substance are not protected by copyright.

Generally, the owner of the copyright is the creator of the work. However, this is not always the case. In some cases copyright belongs to the employer. For instance, if the work was created as part of your conditions of employment and there was no agreement to the contrary the copyright rests with the employer.

In addition, if a work is commissioned and has been paid for, and if there is no agreement to the contrary, the copyright would belong to the party that commissioned the work. Another example where copyright does not rest with the original owner or creator is in the case where the original owner has transferred the copyright to another party.

Copyright is established as soon as an original work is created copyright exists.Nothing needs to be done to establish copyright. It is established automatically upon creation of the work and your copyright is protected. You can however register your copyright with the copyright office and indicate notice of copyright on your work if you want to strengthen your claim in the event of a copyright dispute.

Generally, copyright in Canada exists for the life of the author plus 50 years following death. There are some exceptions.


Can libraries or educational institutions copy parts of books or articles for student use without restriction?

No. The making of multiple copies requires the consent of the copyright owner. If the institution holds a licensing agreement with a photocopying collective multiple copies may be allowed for a fee. However, the Copyright Act does allow minimal amounts of copying by individuals of parts of works for private study or research. This exception falls under Section 29 of the Copyright Act under Fair Dealing.

Fair dealing and Copyright Collectives

Fair dealing refers to the use or reproduction of a work for research, criticism, review, news reporting, or private study. Section 29.4 through 29.9 in the Canadian Copyright Act address Fair Dealing with regards to Educational Institutions in greater detail.

If you work in an educational institution, or if you are a student, it's a good idea to check out the institution's policies and procedures regarding copyrighted materials. Your educational institution likely subscribes to one or more copyright collectives that have the authority to grant permission to use the works they administer the rights for.

Two collectives that administer the rights of works relevant to education are The Educational Rights Collective of Canada (ERCC) and Access Copyright, The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency.

ERCC is a non-profit collective established in 1998 to represent the interests of copyright owners of television and radio programs (news, commentary programs and all other programs), when these programs are reproduced and performed in public by educational institutions for educational or training purposes.

Access Copyright, The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency, represents writers, publishers and other creators for the administration of copyright in all provinces except Quebec. The purpose of the collective is to provide easy access to copyright material by negotiating comprehensive licences with user groups, such as schools, colleges, universities, governments, corporations, etc. permitting reproduction rights, such as photocopy rights, for the works it administers.

In Canada, the Canadian Copyright Board is the government body mandated with establishing the royalties to be paid for the use of copyrighted works when the administration of copyright is entrusted to a collective-administration society. The Board also has the right to supervise agreements between users and licensing bodies and issues licences when the copyright owner cannot be located.[3]

What is public domain?

Some works are not protected under copyright. This could be because the term of protection has expired, or because the creator released his/her work to the public domain without claiming copyright. Works in the public domain can be used by anyone without liability for copyright infringement.


Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) helps let artists define the degree to which their work can be used in specific situations for sharing and developing. According to, "Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright and the public domain. From all rights reserved to no rights reserved." Creative Commons licenses can make works available to the public for certain kinds of uses while ensuring that copyright owners retain certain rights. Visit the Creative Commons website for more details.


Copyright: Past, Present and Future

The Canadian Copyright Act was written in 1921, long before the advent of the internet. While the Copyright Act is a living document that has had numerous updates and amendments over the years, it has not caught up to the reality and implications of the internet. In order to bring the Canadian Copyright Act into line with current and emerging technologies, the Canadian Government began considering updates to the Act in the late part of last decade. In 2009, public consultations were held to provide an opportunity for some input into potential changes. These changes have not yet been enacted through Parliament. These changes are not simple changes that everyone agrees upon. According to some, a fine balance must be struck between consumer rights (users of the work) and commercial interests (owners of the copyright). Of course, there are others that would give greater weight to owners of copyright rather than end users or vice versa. This is not a contemporary debate. It is one that has been ongoing for years.

For instance, as early as 1769 in the case of Millar v. Taylor, an English judge wrote:
"It is wise in any state, to encourage letters, and the painful researches of learned men. The easiest and most equal way of doing it, is, by securing to them the property of their own works... He who engages in a laborious work... which may employ his whole life, will do it with more spirit, if, besides his own glory, he thinks it may be a provision for his family."

Check out this video by Fair Copyright for Canada: Why Copyright? Canadian Voices on Copyright Law


Youtube and Copyright

What is YouTube?

According to Wikipedia,[4] YouTube is a video sharing website on which users can upload and share videos. Three former PayPal employees created YouTube in February 2005. In November 2006, YouTube, LLC was bought by Google Inc. for $1.65 billion, and is now operated as a subsidiary of Google. The company is based in San Bruno, California, and uses Adobe Flash Video technology to display a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips, and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video blogging and short original videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by individuals, although media corporations including CBS, the BBC, UMG and other organizations offer some of their material via the site, as part of the YouTube partnership program.

Unregistered users can watch the videos, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos. Videos that are considered to contain potentially offensive content are available only to registered users over the age of 18. The uploading of videos containing defamation, pornography, copyright violations, and material encouraging criminal conduct is prohibited by YouTube's terms of service. The account profiles of registered users are referred to as "channels".

What are the Issues for YouTube and copyright?

YouTube can be a great resource for both students and teachers to use in the classroom. It can enable people to have all different types of videos available to them with the click of a mouse. With this comes issues of coypright. According to Wikipedia YouTube has been criticized for failing to ensure that its videos respect the law of copyright. At the time of uploading a video, YouTube users are always shown a screen with the following message:
Do not upload any TV shows, music videos, music concerts or commercials without permission unless they consist entirely of content you created yourself. The Copyright Tips page and the Community Guidelines can help you determine whether your video infringes someone else's copyright.

Despite this advice, there are still many unauthorized clips from television shows, films and music videos on YouTube. YouTube does not view videos before they are posted online, and it is left to copyright holders to issue a takedown notice under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Organizations including Viacom, Mediaset and the English Premier League have filed lawsuits against YouTube, claiming that it has done too little to prevent the uploading of copyrighted material. Viacom, demanding US$1 billion in damages, said that it had found more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of its material on YouTube that had been viewed "an astounding 1.5 billion times". YouTube responded by stating that it "goes far beyond its legal obligations in assisting content owners to protect their works". Since Viacom filed its lawsuit, YouTube has introduced a system called Video ID, which checks uploaded videos against a database of copyrighted content with the aim of reducing violations.

In August 2008, a U.S. court ruled in Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. that copyright holders cannot order the removal of an online file without first determining whether the posting reflected fair use of the material. The case involved Stephanie Lenz from Gallitzin, Pennsylvania, who had made a home video of her 13-month-old son dancing to Prince's song "Let's Go Crazy" and posted the 29-second video on YouTube.

What does YouTube have to say about this?

The YouTube site has a page on copyright which discusses copyright tips, how to make sure your video does not infringe someone else's copyright, how you find out what is copyrighted and a copyright help center. Individuals can send YouTube a copyright infringement notification to report abuse, harrassment, inappropriate content, or privacy complaints on the help center page of their website.

What do schools say about this?

Even though YouTube's policies address copyright, some material posted on YouTube could contain copyright infringement material. Educators should be responsible about checking legitimacy of videos before using them in the classroom as many videos found on-line may have usage restrictions. User names can be clues as to whether material is owned by the person that created the video. You could search for an official version as some companies have YouTube channels. If you cannot find an official version on YouTube, try the company's website. Remember, not all official videos are on-line. Educators have to use reason and judgement before using copyright infringed material found on YouTube.

The George Brown College[5] in Toronto evaluates the following criteria to determine whether or not you can use a video or clip found online:

    • The video has been posted online by the copyright owner
    • The site’s Terms of Use allows you to stream the video for educational purposes
    • The video does not contain copyrighted information from another source
    • Canada is a region where the video is allowed to be shown
    • You are streaming the video directly from the original site
    • There are no other explicit warnings or limits of use stated

Video blog posted on Youtube by Ken RG about copyright infringement
Video posted on Youtube by Media Education Foundation on Fair Use


TeacherTube was designed specifically for those in the education industry to create and share resources for teaching and for training.

Cute video from Teacher Tube. It's a spoof called Copyright Cops and it presents issues regarding copyright in education.


Is It Legal to Download Television Shows?

Whether or not it is legal to download TV shows depends on several factors and is an evolving area of law that is playing catch-up to technology. Much depends upon the source of the file, the show’s copyright status, and the country in which one lives. In many cases it is the provider that uploads the show to the Internet that is breaking the law by illegal distribution of copyrighted content, but it can also be illegal to download TV Shows.[6]

Within U.S. law is a “fair use” statute that basically allows for a person to restrictively duplicate or share copyrighted material for casual use within limited circumstances. For example, if you purchase a book and let your neighbor read it when you’re through, this is considered fair use. Fair use also allows for copying tracks off your legally purchased CDs to make a personal compilation of music. Along the same lines it is also legal to make a hard copy (video tape or digital recording) of your favorite program as it is broadcast to your television. Fair use does not allow for re-distribution or sale of copyrighted materials.

Based on the fair use precedence, some argue it is legal to download that have already been broadcast to your home. The problem with this argument, as seen by holders, is twofold. First, downloaders might not pay for the content at home. Secondly, holders hope to sell licensing rights to televise shows in other countries. When episodes wind up on the Internet, the series essentially becomes free to the world, violating distribution and copyright laws.

For these reasons, networks generally do not want consumers to download, regardless of a downloader’s perceived status, real or imagined, of acting fairly under the law. The virtual sole exception is if the network makes the show available itself, which is increasingly the case through websites like Hulu, owned by NBC and News Corp.

Premium cable networks like Home Box Office (HBO) and Showtime have uploaded episodes of original series’ to spark interest in subscription services. Many free to air broadcasters also make TV content available for download, such as the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). It is completely legal to download TV shows from these original sources for personal use.

It is also legal to download TV shows when the copyright owners have released material for free distribution. This is sometimes the case with older series’ that have long been internationally licensed and have no further distribution value. It seems likely the Internet of the future will play a role in distributing all TV content through a means that is both acceptable and profitable to holders and convenient for consumers. In the meantime, if you’d like to download TV shows that you don’t already pay for at home (or receive free to air), chances are it is unlawful unless the source is the network that produced the show, or a licensed distributor. If you do receive the show at home but the network doesn’t provide it online, chances are the source is illegal.

Technology, Copyright, and Big Business

Technology and copyright protection laws are not always on speaking terms, so it's difficult to say whether you can legally download television shows with any sort of finality. Some legal analysts suggest that consumers who download television shows are clearly in violation of existing copyright laws. Others equate the practice with videotaping or digitally recording broadcasts for later personal viewing. Currently, the most common methods used to download television shows are very similar to file-sharing systems already being challenged in courts around the world.

The technology to download television shows definitely exists, and sales of the equipment have not been outlawed. Through a digital recording device marketed as TiVo, users can download television shows onto a recordable DVD format called digital video recorder (DVR). Not only does TiVo allow owners to download television shows; it also allows for the editing of commercials and real-time pausing. The use of DVR disks to download television shows falls under the same protection as using a video cassette recorder (VCR). The user agrees not to distribute the recorded material commercially, and all viewing is to take place in a private home.

With the advent of streaming video and broadband Internet services, however, the legality of downloading television shows has become less clear. Producing a primetime comedy or drama can be a very expensive venture for network executives. Creative artists such as writers, directors and actors have a right to be compensated for their work. The also want to recuperate technical expenses. This is their right under the law.


Member Bios

Hi - this is Colleen. I work for the College of the Rockies satelite campus in Invermere, BC. I work in the office as an administrative assistant as well as teach continuing education computer courses. I am living in Radium Hot Springs and enjoy skiing, hiking and playing soccer.

Hi, this is Disha. I enjoy being outdoors, long drives and just exploring or travelling new places.
Phillip here. I work in community health promotion. This is where I get to put the tools I'm learning in the PIDP course to good use. I'm living in Switzerland at the moment and taking the opportunity to complete the PIDP online.


Links to our other classmates wiki pages




  1. ^ Department of Justice Canada, Copyright Act (R.S., 1985, c. C-42) Retrieved from
  2. ^ World Intellectual Property Organization, Berne Convention Retrieved from
  3. ^ Copyright Board of Canada, What's New At the Copyright Board Retrieved from
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