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A Guide for Students & Instructors

Copyright in the Classroom

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  • if the work is unpublished, it includes the right to publish it or any substantial part of it.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.

In today's 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.

The Copyright Modernization Act that was approved in November 2012 moved to make the Copyright Act technologically neutral. That means exceptions previously available to educational institutions for print materials are now available to educational institutions for Projection Slides, PowerPoint’s and Blackboard.

Education has also been added to the Fair Dealing exception which increases the number of materials available for use in the classroom. 


To comply with copyright, always include:

  • The source
  • The entire bibliographic information

MHC and Book Sections, Newspapers, Sheet Music, and Artwork in the Classroom (s.29)

Under Fair Dealing the following can be copied for use in the classroom:

  • a chapter or a small amount approx. 10% of material from a book;
  • one article or an entire page of a newspaper;
  • an entire musical score from a copyright-protected work containing other musical scores; and
  • An entire artistic work from a copyright-protected work containing other artistic works.

MHC and Journal Articles in the Classroom (s.29)

Making copies of journal articles in print or electronic format is okay if the Fair Dealing guidelines are followed. Occasionally journals have attached a disclaimer to their material stating that no copies can be made, they cannot be posted electronically, or they forbid persistent links. If you encounter any of these disclaimers on any material you would like to use for your course contact the Copyright Officer.  

MHC and Student Work in the Classroom

Instructors using work done by past students should ensure that they have written permission from the student. See the suggested Student Consent Form under the Forms section.

MHC and Internet resources in the classroom (s. 30.04 (1) - (6))

Most content on the internet is protected by copyright however the Copyright Modernization Act has given instructors liberal guidelines to follow when using information from the internet for instruction purposes. See the Internet section on the drop down menu.

MHC and Instructor Materials in the Classroom

Instructor created materials can be freely copied for classroom use. The College maintains a license for the copyright of course materials created by instructors during the term of their employment (see MHC Intellectual Property and Copyright Policy).

MHC and Government Documents in the Classroom (terms of use)

Works created by the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Government with the exception of Manitoba, Quebec, and Nunavut are available to be freely copied for educational purposes. Many of these works include statutes, regulations, and judicial decisions.  All of the following criteria must apply:

  • Exercise due diligence in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced AND
  • Indicate both the complete title of the materials reproduced, as well as the author organization AND
  • Indicate that the reproduction is a copy of an official work that is published by the Government of Canada and that the reproduction has not been produced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada.

Municipal government documents vary in terms of use. Often a terms of use page will be provided on the municipal website. Follow these ad hoc guidelines and consult the Copyright Officer if you have any issues.

MHC and Internet in the Classroom (s. 30.04 (1) - (6))

Most material available on the Internet is protected by copyright. This includes text, images, photographs, music, video clips, and computer software. However new sections have been added to the Copyright Act to allow educational institutions, for educational purposes, to reproduce, communicate and perform for students works that are available on the internet. The work or internet site cannot be copied if:

  • technological protection measures restrict copying OR
  • a clearly visible notice prohibits copying (a copyright symbol is not enough) OR
  • the work is an infringing copy or the person responsible for the copying has reasonable grounds to believe it is an infringing copy.

*Education has recently been added to exceptions provided by Fair Dealing. This means that small amounts of a work can be copied for educational purposes. Read more on Fair Dealing under the Fair Dealing section.

*Linking is almost always allowed! A link is not considered a copy so copyright does not apply.

MHC and Google Images in the Classroom

The images that appear when you search Google images are not owned by Google. The search engine pulls images from various webpages some of which charge for the use of their images, some don't want others to use their images at all, while others offer their images for use free of charge. When using Google images it is always important to click on the image and then follow the 'visit page' link where you can read the terms of use for the website where the image was found.

Another option when searching on google is to use google's advanced search. When you have the advanced search page open you will see a box for usage rights at the very bottom of the page. By clicking on this box you can filter your search results based on licenses that allow you to use the image and share it for free. You also have the option to filter by a license that allows you to use and share an image even for comercial purposes.

MHC and Stock Photos in the Classroom

If you come across a photo with a water mark the image is most likely available for purchase. When you purchase photos from a webpage always remember to check the terms of use. Often times using the images for educational purposes is allowed but using photos for commercial purposes is not.

Image Resources for the Classroom

Many instructors have been asking for a list of resources where they can access free images. I have started a list below and will add to it when I come across new resources.

MHC and YouTube in the Classroom (s. 30.04 (1) and (2))

YouTube is allowed to be played in the classroom. Streaming video from the YouTube site itself is a best practice however embedded videos from YouTube are allowed as long as embedding is not protected by a technological protection measure. Videos on YouTube have a share button available under the video. If an embed code is available embedding the video is permitted if it is not available embedding is not allowed. The following criteria must apply:

  • The video is shown in an educational setting AND
  • The audiovisual work is shown to an audience where the majority is students AND
  • The video shown is not an infringing copy or the person responsible for the showing has no reasonable grounds to believe it is an infringing copy

MHC and Netflix in the Classroom

Netflix should NOT be played in the classroom. The Netflix terms of use is available on their website and clearly states that the service is for personal use only.

MHC and Films in the Classroom (s. 29.5 (d))

The Copyright Act now allows educational institutions to show films without purchasing public performance rights. All of the following criteria must apply:

  • The video is shown in an educational setting AND
  • The audiovisual work is shown to an audience where the majority is students AND
  • The video shown is not an infringing copy or the person responsible for the showing has no reasonable grounds to believe it is an infringing copy

Music/Videos can be obtained from any of the following:

  • Purchased or rented from a retail store
  • Borrowed from the library
  • Borrowed from a friend
  • A YouTube video

MHC and Live TV or Radio in the Classroom (s. 29.5 (c))

It is not an infringement of copyright for an educational institution to show a live broadcast in class. The following criteria must apply:

  • The video is shown in an Educational setting AND
  • The audiovisual work is shown to an audience where the majority is students

MHC and Recorded News or News Commentary in the Classroom (s. 29.6)

A single recorded copy of news or news commentary can be shown. The following criteria must apply:

  • The video is shown in an educational setting AND
  • The audiovisual work is shown to an audience where the majority is students AND
  • The video is shown for the purpose of educational training AND
  • The copy is made at the time the program aired

*Excludes documentaries

Documentaries may be played in the classroom if the video is obtained from one of the following: 

  • purchased or rented from a retail store
  • borrowed from the library
  • borrowed from a friend
  • A YouTube video

You CAN NOT make your own recording of a documentary and then show it in the classroom.

What is a News or News Commentary program?

news program is a program reporting on local, regional, national, and international events as they happen, and includes weather reports, sportscasts, community news, and other related features or segments contained within the news program.

news commentary program is a program containing discussions, explanations, analysis, observations or interpretations of the news and having a preponderance of the following elements: "talking head(s)"; minimal editing; minimal "shelf life" in its original form; and, if in interview or panel discussion format, unscripted responses.

MHC and Other Recorded TV or Radio in the Classroom (s. 29.7)

It is lawful to make a single copy of all other types of broadcast programs (i.e., those that are not news or news commentary programs). An instructor may examine the copy for up to 30 days, to determine whether the copy will be used on College premises for educational purposes.  If the copy is shown at any time (including within the 30-day evaluation period) or if it is not erased after 30 days, details must be recorded so that payment can be made. The following criteria must apply:

Less than 30 days

  • The copy can only be made at the time the program aired AND
  • The video is destroyed prior to 30 days

Over 30 days

  • The Copyright Officer must be contacted AND
  • Royalties must be paid AND
  • Records must be kept (making  of the copy, performance of it, and destruction of it (see more below)) AND
  • The video can only be shown in an educational setting AND
  • The audiovisual work is shown to an audience where the majority is students AND
  • The video is shown for the purpose of educational training


Why is it important to report which programs you record?

To comply with the Copyright Act, Medicine Hat College must contact the copyright owner and pay any applicable royalties for the use of broadcast programming in the the classroom. As much notice as possible is required to allow the Copyright Officer to contact the copyright owners.

If you copy a program (that is not considered news or news commentary) for use in your class, you must report the copying and showing of the program and include the following information: 1. Title of program; 2. Date of recording; 3. Length of recording; 4. TV Station call letters [eg. CHAT, CBC, etc]; 5. Date to be shown in class; Number of students in class.

MHC and Music in the Classroom (s. 29.5)

The Copyright Act allows educational institutions to play music without paying to license the music. The following criteria must apply:

  • The music is played in the classroom AND
  • The music is played to an audience where the majority is students AND
  • The music played is not an infringing copy or the person responsible for the playing has no reasonable grounds to believe it is an infringing copy

Music can be obtained from any of the following

  • Music purchased or rented from a retail store
  • A CD borrowed from the library
  • A CD borrowed from a friend
  • A music video on YouTube

*Under Fair Dealing one musical score can be copied if it is part of a work containing other musical scores (29). Individual music scores cannot be copied without permission. 

Music on YouTube

YouTube has created an audio library of free songs and sound effects for use in videos. You can access these audio files by signing into your account on YouTube, going to the creator studio, and clicking on audio library under the create icon.

YouTube has also compiled a directory of songs and their current policies set by the copyright holders. The directory outlines which countries the video will be viewable in and if advertising will appear, based on the song used. You can access the directory by signing into your account on YouTube, going to the creator studio, and clicking on music licensing under the create icon.

Free Music Resources

Below is a list of resources that offer openly licensed free music.

MHC and Music OUTSIDE of the Classroom

If you or your students are planning an event on campus outside of your regular classroom activities where music will be played please contact the Copyright Officer.

When music is played for non-educational purposes the college must pay royalties. MHC regularly reports to SOCAN (the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) and Re:Sound. To complete accurate reports the Copyright Officer must be notified of any event on campus where music will be played.

MHC and Performances in the Classroom (s. 29.5)

The live performance of a dramatic piece is allowed under the Copyright Act if the following criteria apply:

  • The performance is on campus AND
  • Performed primarily by students AND
  • The audience is primarily made up of students AND
  • The performance is for educational purposes AND
  • There is no charge to watch the performance

The copying of scripts for dramatic productions is not allowed. Permission to copy must be obtained or numerous copies must be bought. 

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Copyright News

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 (Federal Court of Appeal Hearing March 5-6, 2019)

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 Kim Unrau, 403.529.3835