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Copyright FAQs for staff

Copyright basics

See Copyright basics FAQs for information on how copyright works in Canada and at SFU and  general information about the Canadian Copyright Act.

Some text derived from University of Waterloo (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) and University of Saskatchewan (licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5) copyright FAQs.

Copyright for staff

  • Copyright is a set of rights relating to the reproduction of works. Works include text, art, music, dramatic works and computer programs, as well as sound recordings, performances and communication signals.

    Only the copyright holder can copy a work (or perform related actions including broadcasting, publishing, adapting or translating a work), or authorize others to do these things. The copyright holder is often the creator (e.g. author, artist, musician). However, copyright can be transferred, for example to a publisher, or held by someone else, such as an employer in the case of works created during employment.

    Copyright is a form of intellectual property and is governed in Canada by the Copyright Act. The Copyright Act is intended to balance the protection of creators' and copyright holders' economic and moral rights with the right of users to use works for public benefit and to further creative endeavour.

    In Canada, copyright protection happens automatically when a work is created, as long as the work is original, fixed (in a physical form) and created in Canada or in a country that is a member of the Berne Convention, Universal Copyright Convention or World Trade Organization (these three conventions cover almost every country in the world).

    In Canada, there is no requirement that a work be registered or that the word "copyright," or the symbol ©, appear on the work. However, it is a good idea to use the universal symbol © on any works you create, as it serves as a reminder to others that the work is protected. Other countries may have different requirements and offer different protections from those in Canada.

  • Yes. If you are copying material for use in a course, fair dealing allows for limited copying of short excerpts of copyright protected works. SFU has fair dealing limits for copying for educational purposes set out in the policy Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04. The material copied can only be distributed to students engaged in a specific course of study at SFU and cannot be made available to those not in the class. The short excerpt can be made available as a class handout (or email); in Canvas; or as part of a coursepack. See below, and refer to the Copyright Information Graphic for details.

    The amount of a short excerpt that can be copied for educational purposes under fair dealing at SFU is:

     (i) Up to 10% of a copyright protected work,

    (ii) One chapter from a book (a short story is not a chapter but is a complete work and therefore is not a short excerpt),

    (iii) A single article from a periodical,

    (iv) An entire artistic work from a copyright protected work containing other artistic works,

    (v) An entire newspaper article or page,

    (vi) A single poem or musical score from a copyright protected work containing other poems or musical scores,

    (vii) An entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary or similar reference work.

    The limits described above are mutually exclusive. Use the one that works best in the specific situation.

    NOTE: Copying or communicating multiple short excerpts from the same copyright protected work, with the:

    (i) Effect of exceeding the copying limits set out in Section 4.4 of this Appendix or

    (ii) Intention of copying or communicating substantially the entire work,

    is prohibited.

    If you are copying material for use on a website, in publicity materials, for publication or any other use outside a course, you may need the permission of the copyright holder. See the Instructors' resources page for sources of less copyright-restricted materials, or contact the Copyright Officer (copy@sfu.ca) with a specific question or for help obtaining permission.

  • Under section 29.21 of Canada's Copyright Act, an individual may "use an existing work... or copy of one... in the creation of a new work or other subject-matter in which copyright subsists." This is colloquially known as the "mashup provision," as it was designed to allow things like recording a home video with music playing in the background, or creating a collage of photos or video clips, and uploading these resulting works online.

    There are a number of conditions to this provision. First, the resulting new work must be created "solely for non-commercial purposes." This means you can't use this provision to create advertising or sell something. You must also cite the source, if it is "reasonable" to include this in your resulting work. You must be reasonably sure that the work you are using was not an infringing (illegal) copy of the original work (e.g. a pirated song or film). Finally, your resulting work must not negatively affect the market (i.e. serve as a substitute) for the original work.

    For example, you might want to create a collage of photos and video clips of SFU events, with music in the background. This must not serve as an advertisement (whether for fundraising, to attract enrollment, or to sell anything relating to SFU or tickets to an event). You should attribute the creators of the photos, videos and music in your credits. Your photos, videos and music must come from legitimate sources. And your creation must be an original work, not a replacement for any of the original videos or music you have used.

    SFU Archives is a great source for photos, footage and other material to work from.

  • Yes. There is a wealth of material out there which is either in the public domain (meaning copyright has expired) or available under Creative Commons licensing, which generally means the work is available for free, subject to certain limited conditions, such as non-commercial use only and acknowledgment of the author. This includes open access publications, which generally use Creative Commons licenses.

    For Creative Commons materials, visit the Creative Commons website for more information and check out their content directories which list audio, video, image and text materials available under Creative Commons licensing, or search using their Search page. To find open access materials, start with the Copyright Resources and Links for Instructors page.

    For public domain material, simply search online for ‘public domain’ and the type of material you’re interested in. Some useful sites include: Project Gutenberg (the largest collection of copyright-free books online) and Wikipedia, which has an entire page dedicated to public domain resources

    For other online materials, a recommended best practice is to check the website’s ‘Terms of Use’ or ‘Legal Notices’ section to confirm what conditions apply to use of the website’s material. In some cases, you may be able to use the material for free for non-commercial and educational purposes.

  • Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that has developed a suite of licenses that authors and other creators can apply to their works to permit sharing and distribution. Applying a Creative Commons (CC) license to your written, artistic, musical or multimedia work means that you retain ownership of copyright but you permit certain uses of your work without the user needing to contact you for permission each time. You also waive your moral rights, to the extent required for users to use your works according to the applied license. Please note that users of copyright protected works (including those under CC licenses) have certain rights in Canada’s Copyright Act; these rights will supersede the terms of a CC license where applicable.

    You must be the copyright holder of the work and any other works contained within it (such as photographs, diagrams, articles, video clips, etc.), or have license or permission to include these works, in order to apply a CC license. Once you make your work available under a specific CC license, you cannot revoke or change the license associated with that specific work (though of course you may stop distributing the material).

    There are six different CC licenses, each with various parameters and requirements, ranging from extremely open and permissive to slightly less so. All CC licenses will permit typical teaching uses such as displaying in the classroom, distributing to students or posting in Canvas. These licenses are described below.

    by  CC BY (Attribution)

    The most open of Creative Commons licenses, this option permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work in any way without contacting your for permission. However, they are required to credit you in any use they make of your work.

    by-sa  CC BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike)

    This license permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work in any way without contacting you for permission. However, they are required to credit you in any use they make of your work, and also to license any derivative work (e.g. an adapted version) under the same license.

    by-nd  CC BY-ND (Attribution-NoDerivs [No Derivatives])

    This license permits others to copy and distribute your work without contacting you for permission. However, they are required to credit you on the copies they make and they are not permitted to change your work in any way.

    by-nc  CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial)

    This license permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work without contacting you for permission. However, they are required to credit you in any use they make of your work and they are not permitted to use the work for commercial purposes. Non-commercial purposes are defined by Creative Commons as those “not primarily intended or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

    by-nc-sa  CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike)

    This license permits others to copy, distribute, adapt and otherwise use your work without contacting you for permission. However, they must credit you in any use they make of the work; they are not permitted to use the work for commercial purposes; and they must license any derivative work (e.g. an adapted version) under the same license. Non-commercial purposes are defined by Creative Commons as those “not primarily intended or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

    by-nc-nd  CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs [No Derivatives])

    This license permits others to copy and distribute your work without contacting you for permission. However, they must credit you on any copies they make; they are not permitted to use the work for commercial purposes; and they are not permitted to change your work in any way. Non-commercial purposes are defined by Creative Commons as those “not primarily intended or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

     

  • If your department needs photographs, video footage or music for promotional uses, check SFU Creative Studio's Image Library or Video Library, or consider hiring Creative Studio to create exactly what you need. This eliminates copyright concerns because the copyright in Creative Services' work already belongs to SFU.

    If you do need to license media that was created by someone outside of SFU, there are a few copyright considerations to keep in mind.

    A media outlet or other company or organization may have a standard agreement for licensing copyright protected works. You will want to review this document carefully to ensure it includes the right for SFU (not just your department) to use the image/footage/track in any way and for all time. If this is not part of their standard agreement, ask to negotiate it in. See clause 1 of the template Consent and Release license for the kind of reuses and wording that you want to ensure are included in the license.

    If you are asking an individual (such as an alumnus or student, attendee at an event, or other member of the public) for permission to use their image/recording, you will have to provide a license for them to sign. We have a template Consent and Release license you can use; just fill in the required information. This license gives SFU the right to use that material in any way and for all time.

    Keep all signed agreements on file in your office.

  • You ask. If your use is not permitted by a license, or one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, you will need to ask for permission. The permission must come from the copyright owner so the first step is to identify who the copyright owner is and whether there is an organization that represents the owner. For published works, such as books and journal articles, the publisher or journal is usually the best place to start - they likely own copyright, or they can direct you to the correct rightsholder.

    There are a number of copyright collectives which can give you permission (in the form of a license) on behalf of the copyright owner to use their work. So, for example, if you want to use music and your use does not fall within any of the Copyright Act’s exceptions, you may be able to obtain permission from copyright collectives such as SOCAN, Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) or Re:Sound that administer copyright in music. 

    But if the copyright owner is easily identifiable and locatable, it can sometimes be easier to contact them directly as many copyright owners will give permission to academic users without requiring payment. Usually you will be able to identify the owner somewhere on the work by looking for the copyright symbol ©, which should have the copyright owner’s name next to it. You will often find this at the beginning of a book, at the side of a photograph or at the bottom of a webpage. Once you’ve located the owner, simply email or write to him/her, explaining how and why you want to use the work and requesting permission. The permission should be in writing, though an email will suffice. It is not advisable to rely on verbal permission because there is no documentary evidence to prove what was agreed to between you and the copyright owner. You should also keep a record of who gave the permission, what was permitted, the date, and how to contact the person who gave the permission. Leave plenty of time for this process, since you can't control how quickly the copyright owner might respond.

    Remember that copyright owners have the right to say no, charge a fee or impose conditions on the use of their work.

    Feel free to contact the Copyright Office (copy@sfu.ca) with any questions you might have about obtaining copyright permissions.

  • Generally, the creator of a work owns copyright in that work unless it has been assigned to another entity, such as a publisher or other person. However, if the work was created in the course of employment, the employer may own the copyright.  

    SFU Policy R30.03 Intellectual Property Policy describes how the University manages the intellectual property rights of members of the university community who create works in a scholarly, professional or student capacity. Members include employees, students, post-doctoral fellows and research grant employees affiliated with the University and who use facilities, resources or funds administered by the University in the course of University-related research and other creative activities. 

    Simon Fraser University faculty and non-faculty staff own copyright in their own scholarly works, including research information and teaching materials. In some cases, an employee's contract may specify a different copyright ownership arrangement. Undergraduate students retain copyright in all works created during their course of study. Graduate students retain copyright in their own works (including theses) unless a research contract in support of the student’s work stipulates otherwise.

Compliance

  • A person who does something with a copyright protected work that only the copyright owner is entitled to do, and does so without the permission of the copyright owner, infringes copyright and can be held liable. Either civil or criminal penalties can be imposed for copyright infringement. Criminal penalties can include fines and/or imprisonment and depend on the seriousness of the infringement. While criminal penalties are usually reserved for those engaged in piracy for profit, civil penalties, including an order to pay damages or an injunction to cease infringing, can be imposed for other types of infringement. Monetary damages could be awarded to the copyright owner for loss of income occasioned by the infringement or for other losses. Statutory damages for all infringements for all works involved are limited to $5,000 if the infringements are for a non-commercial purpose. However, statutory damages increase to a maximum of $20,000 for all infringements of each work involved when the infringements are for a commercial purpose. 

    Generally, the person who actually infringes the rights of the copyright owner will be held liable for the infringement. In the absence of the fair dealing exception or a license, anyone who copies a copyright protected work (e.g. scans a book, photocopies an article) without permission will be held liable for that infringement, whether that person be a student, staff member or faculty member. Staff may copy materials at the request of others (e.g., a faculty member or a student). In that case, both the person who actually infringes copyright (the staff member) and the person who requested the staff member to so infringe (the faculty member or the student) can be held liable for the infringement. In addition, you may place liability on the University if as an employee you copy works in an infringing manner in the course of your employment. Before you engage in any copying or use of copyright protected materials, please consider the parties whom you might be impacting. Please follow all University policies to ensure proper use of equipment for copying works. 

    In addition to potential liability, staff at the University Libraries, Archives, Bookstore, Centre for Educational Excellence, Creative Services and Document Solutions have a professional responsibility to respect copyright law and may refuse to copy or print something if it is thought to be an infringement of copyright law.

  • Simon Fraser University copyright policies align with the Government of Canada’s copyright legislation (Copyright Act) and outline the institution’s requirements of faculty, staff and students to comply with all legal requirements. 

    Simon Fraser University is committed to compliance in all copyright matters. It is the responsibility of each individual to comply with copyright laws and respect copyright ownership and licensing. The use of copyright protected materials without proper consent may be actionable under both the Copyright Act and the Criminal Code. In addition to any actions that might be taken by any copyright owner or its licensing agent, the University will take any breaches of its copyright policy very seriously. In the case of employees, disciplinary procedures may be applied. In the case of students, disciplinary action for academic and/or non-academic misconduct may be applied.

Copyright contacts