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  • Copyright does not last forever. The main purpose of copyright law is to allow for creators of works to be reasonably rewarded for their creative efforts. To that end, there are statutory rules to determine when copyright protection of a work comes to an end (e.g., the "life plus 50” rule). When the term of copyright expires, the work is said to come into the "public domain" and is then available for anyone to use and copy without seeking permission from the copyright owner (the author retains no rights in the work). This is the reason that Emily Carr's paintings and Stephen Leacock's writings no longer are protected by copyright. 

    Although the copyright in Shakespeare’s plays expired long ago, many of the published editions of his plays contain added original materials (such as footnotes, prefaces etc.), which are copyright protected because the authors have used skill and judgment in creating the new material. This creates a new copyright in the added original material, but not in the underlying text of the original work in which the copyright had expired. 

    Don’t assume that everything you find on the Internet is in the public domain just because it is publicly available. Most of the material you find online is protected by copyright; however, you may be able to use it for educational purposes because fair dealing or the exception for educational use of material publicly available through the Internet will cover many uses related to teaching. See the FAQs under Instructors – Using copyright protected material from the Internet for further information about using material found on websites. 

    Works can also be in the public domain because the work was either not eligible for copyright protection in the first place or the copyright owner has given copyright in the work to the public. Some copyright owners have made clear declarations that uses of their copyright works may be made without permission or payment. Such a declaration may be found on the work itself or the website where it is found. The Reproduction of Federal Law Order, for example, permits anyone, without charge or request for permission, to reproduce Canadian laws and decisions of federally constituted courts and administrative tribunals in Canada. However, restrictions can be placed on the uses that can be made of works and, in this case, you must be sure to use the material accordingly. 

    Project Gutenberg is a good resource for finding literary works in the public domain. See the Instructors' resources for more suggestions about how to locate works in the public domain.

    For more information about duration of copyright protection in Canada see the Government of Canada’s About Copyright publication and the Canadian Public Domain Flowchart (by the Copyright Office at the University of Alberta (2020), licensed CC BY).

    • Personal materials of instructors, for which they own the copyright (e.g. assignment questions/solutions) 
    • Original print books (or similar such as reports), textbooks, DVDs, CDs, etc.
  • Some things are not protected by copyright. For example, copyright does not protect factual information or data, titles, short word combinations, names, characters, slogans, themes, plots, or ideas. These may be used or copied without permission or payment of royalties (unless they happen to be protected under trademark law).  

    Similarly, materials in the public domain can be copied freely, either because copyright protection has lapsed or because the copyright owner has indicated general permission to make copies. If the latter is the case, make certain you comply with any constraints the owner may have indicated regarding reproduction of the material.

  • Copyright protection exists as soon as a work is created in a fixed form. A fact or idea is not subject to copyright protection, but the expression of the fact or idea is protected. 

    Copyright is a broad category that protects creators of:

    • Literary, dramatic, artistic, musical works (e.g. book, letter, e-mail, blog, computer program, compilation, government publication, script, play, film, painting, sculpture, photograph, map, architectural drawing, sheet music, compositions, music video, etc.)
    • Sound recording (e.g. lectures, animal sounds, nature sounds, music, audio book, etc.)
    • Performances (e.g. dancing, singing, acting, etc.)
    • Communication signals (e.g. pay-per-view, radio, satellite, broadcasts, etc.)

    Multiple copyrights may exist within one work. For example, a musical work may consist of the song (lyrics and music) and the recording of the song. In this case, the song and the recording would be considered two different works and may be protected by copyright as a musical work and sound recording. The lyrics may also be categorized as a literary work. Additionally, a live performance of this song by an artist could also be protected as a performance.

    Copyright in most types of works, when used in Canada, lasts for the life of the creator plus 50 years. After that time, copyright expires and the work enters the public domain; works no longer under copyright can be freely used in any way by anyone, without permission.

  • Articles, single book chapters, lecture notes, and any other material that qualifies for copying under the SFU Fair Dealing policy (Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04). Please see the Copyright Infographic for the copying limits.

    Access to the scanned documents is restricted to those students who are enrolled in the course for which they are on Reserve. Links to reserve material have also been added to SFU Connect and Canvas to allow better access for students.

  • The Library subscribes to or owns outright numerous non-journal electronic resources. Search for them by format using the "Find Databases by database title and description" search box at Article Databases. These resources can be linked to in course listings, electronic reserves, course websites and the learning management system. See the Electronic Collection Information for Librarians and Faculty (SFU Library) for the suitability of certain resources for use on Library Reserves. 

    Additionally, terms of use information for journals and article indexes and databases licensed by the SFU Library can be viewed via the A-Z Journals Listing in the Library Catalogue. Journal descriptions specify the publishers' terms of use with regard to copying material for use in electronic reserves, course packs and interlibrary loan.

  • Most reference management tools (e.g. Mendeley, Zotero) store your data on non-Canadian servers, which means your account information may be subject to US laws, specifically the US Patriot Act.  This act allows US authorities to have access to your personal information.  If you are concerned that your personal information is stored outside Canada, do not use these services. The SFU Library has been unable to identify any citation management products that store data exclusively on Canadian servers. 

    To protect your privacy and avoid exposure to the US Patriot Act, you may consider using a citation management tool that works offline. For example, the following tools can be downloaded to your computer and used offline exclusively: 

    We are not able to guarantee the privacy of these tools, and your use of them is at your own risk.  Please note that most of these tools also have online functionality, and using any online features - even briefly - will affect the privacy of your data. Also, note that using citation management software offline may reduce its functionality (e.g. you can't use the web importer tool).  

    For information about citation management tools supported by SFU Library, go to Referencing and Citation Management Software.

  • This depends on whether your works have been published and if so, the agreements that you signed with the publisher. If you retained copyright, you can copy, distribute, adapt, translate, republish and do all the other things protected by copyright. You can also give or withhold permission for others to do these things, at your discretion. If you signed copyright over to a publisher, then the publisher has the right to allow copies or uses to be made of the work, and you must request permission from the publisher to reproduce it. Sometimes publishers will grant some rights back to authors in their agreements; check your agreement or contact your publisher to see what rights you may have retained.

  • Copyright owners have the sole legal right to:

    • produce or reproduce the work
    • perform the work in public
    • publish the work
    • translate the work
    • adapt the work to another format (e.g. novel to film, film to play)
    • record a literary, dramatic or musical work
    • broadcast the work
    • exhibit an artistic work
    • rent out a computer program, or a recording of a musical work
    • sell a work in the form of a tangible object (in certain circumstances)
    • authorize others to do any of these acts

    A copyright owner can license any or all of these rights to another entity (individual or organization) temporarily, or assign them to another entity permanently.

    These rights are qualified by certain exceptions which balance the copyright owner’s interests with the public interest in allowing use of works for purposes such as education and research, such as fair dealing.

  • Multimedia equipment held by the Surrey Library is supported by the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) and is circulated to SIAT students only.

    As much as possible, the SFU Library (which now includes Belzberg, Surrey and the Main Bennett library) policy and practice is that all materials should be available to any SFU person from anywhere. However, there are practical limitations on this policy and unfortunately they may inconvenience some users who would like to use these parts of the collection.