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Copyright at MHC

What Rights Do I Have as a Student?

Image by James Osbourne from Pixabay

Your Rights as a Student

Under the Canadian Copyright Act, students at post-secondary institutions are covered by several educational exceptions and have the right:

  • to show legally acquired DVD's and videos or play legally acquired sound recordings in classroom presentations,
  • to use publicly available material from the internet in assignments, projects, and presentations,
  • to play live broadcasts or podcasts in the classroom.

In addition, students have all general user rights, including:

  • reproduction for private purposes,
  • fair dealing for the purposes of research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, and news reporting,
  • the right to create new works from other copyright-protected works, subject to the following limitations: non-commerical, sources are listed, original works are legal copies, and no adverse financial or other effect on the original works.


Once students graduate or otherwise leave the institution, educational exceptions cease to apply, but they retain all individual user rights.

Your Responsibilities as a Student

When using someone else's work you have three immediate responsibilities:

  1. Use a legally obtained copy of the work.
  2. Give credit to the creator by appropriately citing the work.
  3. Only use what is necessary to accomplish your purpose.

Using What is Necessary

In Canada, the Copyright Act was designed to balance the rights of the user with the rights of the creator.  Anytime we are able to copy someone else's work without asking for permission is because of an exception in the Act that allows us to do so.  To balance those user rights, it is important to make good faith determinations about the amount of work that you are using.  Only that which is necessary to accomplish your purpose should be used.  Occasionally, you may find it is necessary to copy the entirety of someone else's work.  For example, you may need to copy an entire article for the purpose of study.

How Does Copyright Apply to My Work?

Original Works Created by Students are Protected by Copyright

The work students create while pursuing their post-secondary education is indeed protected by copyright, and students must authorize further use of their works.

As students own the work they create, their works cannot be photocopied or reproduced in any way without their permission.  Student authors can refuse to share their work with other students.  The original work could be circulated in a physical classroom but not reproduced to share.  (The preceding is true unless there is a written agreement to the contrary or there is an employee-employer relationship)

Legally Obtaining Work

The Copyright Act contains a number of exceptions that allow for copying of others' work especially for the purposes of education, research, and study.  These exceptions are negated if you are using an illegally obtained work.  So how do you ensure you're using legally obtained works?

Physical Content

It is much easier to determine what is a legal copy when considering physical works.  A legal copy can include:

  • Anything that you've purchased or been given,
  • Or anything that you've borrowed from the library or a friend.

*Photocopies or reproductions, although physical, should be considered similar to digital content and viewed with a critical eye.

Digital Content

Determining the legality of digital content is more nuanced.  When viewing digital content you should assume that it is protected by copyright unless otherwise stated.  A great deal of the content that can be found on the internet is considered an illegal copy.  This means it was posted without the permission of the creator, the copyright owner.  With this in mind, you need to critically examine the digital content you intend to use.  Here are some things to consider:

  • How available is the creator information?  If no information is given, you may want to consider using an alternate work.
  • What is the source of the content?  If it is unlikely that the person who posted the content is the copyright owner, you may want to consider an alternative.
  • How is the quality?  Often times you can tell whether the content is an illegal copy by the quality of the content (e.g. a bootlegged video, images with watermarks, etc.).  If the quality is questionable, you may want to consider an alternative.

Digital Locks

Exceptions in the Copyright Act are also negated if you break a digital lock to copy a work.  These digital locks are also called TPM's (Technological Protection Measures), and they restrict your ability to copy or download online content.  How do you know if something has a digital lock?  When you encounter something with a digital lock you may notice that a download button is not available, the copy commands or drop downs either don't work or a grayed out, digital watermarks are visible, or DVD's are unable to be played in certain devices - these are all examples of the possible forms a digital lock may take.  If you encounter a digital lock, you cannot take steps to circumvent it.

Using Images

What About Using Images?

Most images you find in print material or on the internet are copyright-protected.  Under exceptions in the Copyright Act you can make some use of copyrighted images in your course assignments.

Under Fair Dealing, you can use one entire image from a compilation of images (e.g. one image from an art book, one image from a gallery of images on the internet), or up to 10% of a stand alone image (an image that is not part of a larger compilation, but is on its own).

Under other educational exceptions in the Copyright Act, you can reproduce an entire image from the internet, as long as there is no clearly visible notice prohibiting copying, and as long as you know you are not breaking a TPM (Technological Protection Measure).

An alternative to using images under the Fair Dealing exception, is to make use of images that are posted to the web under a Creative Commons license or to use images in the Public Domain.

Finding Images

Where Can I Find Images That I Can Use Without Permission?

Some websites allow you to search specifically for images that have been licensed for reuse or that are in the Public Domain.  There are some excellent resources for finding these types of images, including:

  • Wikimedia Commons: A database of nearly 20 million freely usable image, sound, and video files.  To find any specific instructions for reusing or attributing images, check the "licensing" section on the image page.
  • Flickr Commons: A wonderful collection of Public Domain images from a variety of libraries, archives, and museums, including the Library of Congress, NASA, the Getty Research Institute, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and many more.
  • Creative Commons Search: A meta-search tool which can be used to find CC-licensed images on Google Images, Fotopedia, Europeana, etc. as well as other CC-licensed works.
  • MHC's OER Guide: A curated list of open image, video, and music websites.

Understanding Fair Dealing

Are There Limits to How Much I Can Copy?

Under Fair Dealing, you can copy and communicate in paper or digital form up to 10% of a copyright-protected work or:

  • one chapter from a book
  • one article from a journal issue
  • one article or page from a newspaper
  • one entry from a reference work (e.g encyclopedia, dictionary)

Under Fair Dealing, you can also:

  • copy up to 10% of an audio or video work or one track from an album (as long as you are not breaking a TPM)
  • copy one image from a compilation (e.g. book, atlas) or up to 10% of a stand-alone image (e.g. painting, poster, wall map - you cannot copy an entire stand-alone image)
  • copy a short excerpt of material found on the internet (short excerpt is determined by the type of material you find from the internet)

Students at MHC

As a Student at MHC, Can I.....

Include copyrighted materials in my assignments and presentations?

Generally, yes.  The Fair Dealing exception allows students to use works for research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, or new reporting.  Provided you are including the work for one of these purposes, and acknowledge the author and source of the material, and the use could be characterized as fair, bearing in mind the Fair Dealing factors, it will likely be covered by the Fair Dealing exception.

Play a video/DVD (legal copy only) or project a streamed video in class?


Link to an online video in my presentation?


Make handouts for other students in my class?

You can make copies of your own work to distribute or share with other students in your class.

You can display a work that is not your own for a presentation or discussion in class.

You can make copies of a work that is not your own for a presentation or discussion in class, but the handouts can only be given to students in your class.

Perform a play on the premises of the institution?

Yes, under the following conditions:

  • it must be for educational or training purposes
  • it must be not for profit
  • it must take place before an audience consisting primarily of students of the educational institution, persons acting under its authority, or a person who is directly responsible for setting a curriculum for the educational institution
  • it must not involve a "motive of gain"

An example is the performance of a play in a drama class.

Can I record my instructor's lecture to watch later?

Instructors are the copyright owners of their lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, and exams, and thus control what can be done with their course materials.  You may not record an entire lecture or copy entire lecture notes or exams without prior permission of your instructor.

What is Not Permissible?

  • Posting of copyright-protected works to a publicly accessible website is not permissible.
  • Copying multiple short excerpts from the same copyright-protected work is not permissible.


Information in this guide is intended for the purpose of increasing copyright literacy.  It is not to be seen as legal advice.


                            This guide has been adapted for MHC from Kwantlen Polytechnic University's "Copyright for Students" webpage.  Unless otherwise noted, MHC's Copyright website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike International license.