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In the Information Age the preservation of copyright is a major concern for many producers and publishers of media. Medicine Hat College Library Services has prepared this guide to help you understand the basics of copyright in the academic environment. It should be noted that this is a basic guide only, and is not a substitute for legal advice in this complicated and dynamic field of Canadian law.

Copyright directives at the Medicine Hat College conform to the prescribed laws and practices in the Copyright Modernization Act, 2012; as well as a number of court decisions, and licensing agreements. The Copyright Act and court decisions prescribe what and how users are entitled to do with copyright materials. The College has voluntarily signed licensing agreements with various collectives that collect fees from us and distribute them to the rights holders they represent.

Copyright is not one right but a series of distinct rights.

In general, copyright means:

  • the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form
  • the right to perform the work or any substantial part of it, or in the case of a lecture, to deliver it
  • if the work is unpublished, it includes the right to publish it or any substantial part of it.

While each of the rights is different, and many apply to only certain types of works, in every instance the right is a ‘sole right’.  This means that the owner of the right can not only do the thing specified, but can also exclude others from doing it without permission. 

The Canadian Copyright Act is the body of legislation that outlines these rights.

When does copyright take effect?

Protection under copyright laws is automatic in Canada: as soon as an original work has been fixed in some tangible form. That can include: being written down, saved to a computer hard drive, or scribbled on a scrap of paper.

A certificate of registration of copyright is also recommended, as evidence that the copyright is registered to the owner. International treaties also protect Canadian copyrights in most foreign countries.

Be sure to mark your creation with the recognized © symbol as well as your name and the year created.

How long does it last?

Copyright generally lasts for 50 years after the death of the author (or the last surviving author). After this period of time, a work enters the public domain and copyright no longer applies.

ex. Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, copyright would last for the entire year of his death plus 50 years, his works became part of the Public Domain in 1667.

Copyright applies to (for example):

  • a song
  • a novel
  • a play
  • a magazine article
  • a computer program

Copyright does not apply to:

  • the title for a song
  • the idea for a plot
  • a method of staging a play
  • a work in the public domain (ex. Hamlet)
  • the facts in the article
  • the name of the program (this might be protected through a trade-mark registration)

Copyright applies to the expression of an idea, not the idea itself.

Access Copyright vs. York University Update

In early July 2017 the Federal Court released its long awaited decision on the Access Copyright v. York University case. Unfortunately, the decision was in favor of Access Copyright, it will impact practices at MHC.

The two issues at stake in the Federal Court case were as follows:

  1. "was York's dealings fair for the purposes of s. 29 of the Act".
  2. "whether the interim tariff issued by the Copyright Board on December 23, 2010 as amended is enforceable against York"

The Court found:

  1. "York's own Fair Dealing Guidelines are not fair in either their terms or their application".
  2. "The Interim Tariff is mandatory and enforceable against York".

What's Next:

  • Access Copyright is seeking $549,703 from York in accordance with the award of costs (Phase I) (announced August 10, 2017)
  • Phase II will determine damages owed by York
  • York will appeal the decision (announced July 31, 2017)

As we await further guidance from the courts, MHC will continue to assess its own policies and practices. A forum has been set up on Source to address any questions faculty and staff may have.

Please direct any requests for information to Chelsey Ehresman,, 403.529.3835

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Recent Presentations


A basic understanding of intellectual property is beneficial to students from all disciplines. Engineers should know how to protect their inventions, marketing and business students should know about the use of images commercially, teachers should know what they can and cannot use as a class handout and artists and musicans should know how to protect their work. Sessions on Intellectual Property mainly including topics within copyright but also covering the basics of trademarks, industrial designs, and patents are available on request as part of the libraries' Information Literacy program. As presentations are given throughout the semester slides will be posted in this area. If you would like to book a session for your class contact the Copyright Officer.

Copyright presentations targeting faculty and staff of MHC will also be posted below.