The Copyright Management Committee is responsible for the periodic updating of these guidelines to ensure that they continue to reflect current best practices and current federal legislation. Any questions or concerns about the guidelines can be directed to the copyright coordinator.

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) and its faculty, staff and students are creators as well as users of copyright-protected works. As creators, we rely on the protections offered by the Copyright Act to ensure that our work is protected from improper use. As users, we are legally and morally obligated to respect the rights of others, just as we expect others to respect our rights. It is important that faculty, staff and students abide by the provisions of the Copyright Act, as well as the university policy on the Use of Materials Protected by Copyright, the Fair Dealing Guidelines and these copyright guidelines below.

Copyright is the sole and exclusive right of a copyright owner to produce, reproduce, perform, publish, adapt, translate and telecommunicate a work and to control the circumstances in which others may do any of these things. Copyright owners may grant permission to others through licences or contracts.

Copyright law in Canada protects a wide range of works. If you wish to reproduce a substantial part of a copyrighted work, you may only copy the work if the Copyright Act allows you to do so or if you have express permission from the copyright owner. The Copyright Act provides some exceptions for users, such as universities and people acting under the authority of a university. These exceptions provide a balance between providing copyright owners with legal rights to control use of their works and allowing users access in specific circumstances that are in the public interest.

For more background information, please visit our What is copyright? page.

Public domain

Public domain materials are not protected by copyright. Generally, copyright expires on a work 70 years after the death of the creator of the work. When a work is in the public domain, it can be copied and distributed – in whole or in part – without copyright permission.

It is important to distinguish public domain materials from publicly available materials. Publicly available content, such as material openly available on the internet, is not the same as public domain material. Most content that is openly available on the internet is protected by copyright and subject to copyright laws.

For additional details, please visit our public domain page. 

Open education resources

Open educational resources (OER) allow instructors and students to access, use, revise/remix and share pedagogically appropriate learning materials freely. There are less restrictive copyright licences (for example, Creative Commons licences) attached to OER than there are for traditionally published materials.

For more information about using OER in your teaching, please visit the Open Educational Practices webpage on the USask Teaching and Learning website. There is also a list of open textbooks currently being used at USask and the university’s Open Access Research Guide which includes a page about OER. 

Fair dealing

Fair dealing is an exception in the Copyright Act, which permits the reproduction of a portion of a work (or sometimes a complete work) that is protected by copyright for the purpose of private study, research, criticism, review, newspaper reporting, education, parody or satire.

The six criteria below were proposed by the Supreme Court of Canada in a landmark case examining fair dealing, CCH Canadian Limited v. Law Society of Upper Canada, to help determine if a use is fair.

  1. The purpose of the dealing: Is the purpose research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, parody, satire or education? The court expresses that "these allowable purposes should not be given a restrictive interpretation where this could result in the undue restriction of users' rights."

  2. The character of the dealing: The court touches on two sub-criteria: the number of copies made and the existing custom and practice. Was a single copy made or were multiple copies made? Were copies distributed widely or to a limited group of people?  Was the copy destroyed after its purpose was accomplished? What are the normal practices of the industry? If multiple copies of works are being widely distributed, this will tend to be unfair. If, however, a single copy of a work is used for a specific legitimate purpose, then it may be easier to conclude that it was fair dealing."

  3. The amount of the dealing: How much of the work was used? What was the importance of the copied work? Quoting trivial amounts may alone sufficiently establish fair dealing. In some cases (for example, for private study) even using the entire work may be fair dealing if it is deemed necessary.

  4. Alternatives to the dealing: Was a "non-copyrighted equivalent of the work" available to the user? For example, it is less fair to use a work if an equivalent non-copyrighted work would suffice. Could the work have been properly criticized without being copied? Was the dealing reasonably necessary to achieve the ultimate purpose?

  5. The nature of the work: How amenable is the work to fair dealing? If it was created and published with little or no motive of gain, like an academic journal, there is more likelihood that the use will be considered fair. It might, alternatively, be more difficult to argue fair dealing if one distributes a previously unpublished work or a work designated for a particular group, like a newsletter for a fee-paying clientele or group.

  6. The effect of the dealing on the work: Is the copying likely to affect the market for the original work? The work used must not compete with the original copyrighted work. For example, it will tend to be unfair to use a work if its market value will be adversely affected.

The university has also established fair dealing guidelines to help staff and faculty determine if their use and the amount they intend to copy will be considered fair. Please refer to the Fair Dealing Guidelines for more information.

Course materials


When making copies from copyrighted works (either a print copy or an electronic copy) without the express permission of the copyright owner, the university relies on uses permitted under the Copyright Act. Course materials can be provided to students, without copyright permission, in accordance with the university’s Fair Dealing Guidelines and the following educational exceptions:

  • Works available through the internet (section 30.04 of the Copyright Act)
    • It is not an infringement of copyright to reproduce and communicate works available on the internet for educational purposes to students enrolled in a class (for example, handing out the work in hardcopy, posting the work on a learning management system), provided that:
      1. The works are available online openly and not protected by “digital locks” such as a paywall or password-protection.
      2. There is no clearly visible notice specifically prohibiting the intended use of the work (this notice needs to be more than just the copyright symbol “©”).
      3. The work has not been made available on the internet in violation of the copyright owner’s rights.
      4. The work is cited when you use it, with the source of the materials and the name of the author or creator if their name is available.

Although open materials on the internet are publicly available, the vast majority of online materials are protected by copyright. Before using material from the internet, remember that the same Copyright Act protection applies to electronic works as it does to print works. Linking to online materials whenever possible, as opposed to copying and distributing online materials, minimizes the risk of any copyright issues with using those materials.

  • Reproduction for display (section 29.4 (1) of the Copyright Act)
    • It is not an infringement of copyright to reproduce a work or do any other necessary act, in order to display it in the classroom for educational purposes as long as the work is not already commercially available in an appropriate format. For example, it is permitted to scan an image from a textbook and include it in your lecture slides.
  • Reproduction for tests or exams (section 29.4 (2) of the Copyright Act)
    • It is not an infringement of copyright to reproduce, translate, perform or broadcast materials protected by copyright on university premises for a test or exam, as long as the work is not already commercially available in an appropriate format.
  • Showing a film in class (section 29.5 of the Copyright Act)
    • It is not an infringement of copyright to show a film or other cinematographic work (as long as it is a legal copy) in the classroom, as long as it is for educational or training purposes and as long as the work is not an infringing copy.
  • Reproduction for lessons by telecommunication (section 30.01 of the Copyright Act)
    • Lessons, including tests and exams, may be recorded and communicated to students enrolled in the course, provided that:
      1. The recording or copy is destroyed within 30 days after the end of the course.
      2. The institution takes measures to limit the audience to only students enrolled in the course in which the lesson was given.
      3. The institution takes measures to prevent further copying and distribution of the lesson by the students in the course.
  • Performances, sound recordings, broadcasts and telecommunication (sections 29.5 and 29.7 of the Copyright Act)
    • Performances of works such as plays or music can be performed live by students without infringing copyright if the performance takes place on the premises of the school and the audience is primarily students of the school or instructors.
    • Play sound recordings for students on the premises of an educational institution for educational purposes, as long as the recording is not an infringing copy.
    • Play radio or television programs live when they are being broadcast. It has been interpreted that this, arguably, includes webcasts.
  • News and commentary (section 29.6 of the Copyright Act)
    • Instructors may copy news and news commentary from radio and television broadcasts for educational or personal use. The copy can be shown in a classroom to USask students for educational purposes.

For details about the different ways to provide your students with course materials that are protected by copyright, please see the following pages:

There is also an instructor frequently asked questions page with information about copyright in teaching.

Textbook materials

In many cases, textbook publishers will provide electronic instructor resources to go along with a required textbook for a course. Publishers may allow extensive use of images and other materials from the textbook and the supplemental resources in course materials for students, but only if the textbook is required for the course. If you would like to use these supplemental resources in classes for which the textbook is not required, then you likely need to request permission to do so from the publisher. Please review any copyright information or terms of use that come with supplemental materials or talk to your publisher representative, to determine permitted uses and any conditions that may be attached to your use of the materials. Please keep a copy of any permissions that you receive.


The University Library's Usage Rights Database is designed to assist you in finding important license information about the use of licenced electronic resources.

When searching for electronic library materials (for example, e-books and e-articles), you can see what is permitted by the licence for that material and the license information is broken into the following usage categories:

  • placing on e-reserves;
  • posting in a learning management system (for example, BlackBoard, Moodle);
  • using material in a course pack;
  • creating a persistent electronic link; and
  • making a print or electronic copy.

This information is available when you click the Full Text Online button (Full Text Online) in the library search results page.

Your liaison librarian can help you create persistent links to electronic articles and e-books that are available through the University Library. The library has also created a guide about creating persistent links to library e-resources, with a tool that will create the persistent link for you using the article DOI.

For additional information, please see our page about providing course materials through the University Library.


An image may be a painting, drawing, photograph, table, map, print, plan, chart, graph, diagram or figure.

A faculty member or instructor can “reproduce a work [such as an image], or do any other necessary act, in order to display it” in the classroom for students (section 29.4, Canadian Copyright Act). If you would like to distribute your lecture slides to the students in your class, you can include an image in your slides as long as the use is covered either by a licence or by an exception in the Copyright Act. The lecture slides can be distributed via a learning management system, in hardcopy in class, in a course pack or by e-mail as long as the distribution is limited to the students in your class.  

Some options for including copyrighted materials, such as images, in your lecture slides without having to acquire copyright permission include:

  • using material that falls within the limits of the USask Fair Dealing Guidelines;
  • using materials found on the internet (please see the conditions listed at the beginning of the course materials section above);
  • using material that you have created for which you own the copyright (for example, material that you have created and have not transferred copyright to a publisher);
  • using open access or Creative Commons-licenced material via openverse;
  • providing links to online materials such as news articles, YouTube videos, etc.;
  • create a persistent link to electronic library materials (see the Library’s Direct/Persistent Linking to Electronic Resources Research Guide);
  • using public domain material;
  • if there is a required textbook for the course, using supplemental materials that were provided with the required text by the book publisher if permitted (see the “textbook materials” section under course materials above).

If you need to use material outside of the options listed above, you must seek express permission from the copyright owner to distribute the content. Please keep a copy of any permissions that you receive.

Works of art

Before using a work of art, it is important to determine who owns the copyright and who owns the physical property. For example, an art gallery may own a painting, but unless the artist has assigned the copyright to the art gallery, the artist holds the copyright to that work. In this case, the art gallery controls the access rights only.  Unless your use is covered by an exception or existing license, permission must be obtained from all copyright owners before using a work of art.

A copy of a work of art (such as a painting) can be made to display to students for educational purposes only if it is not commercially available in that format. Commercially produced slides and transparencies can be freely used in the classroom, but cannot be duplicated or transferred to another format without obtaining permission.

Music and audio

In accordance with USask Fair Dealing Guidelines, a musical score (that is, piece of sheet music) can be copied from a work containing other musical scores and distributed to students in a class for educational purposes. Please cite the source from where the score was copied and limit the distribution to only the students in the course.

Sound recordings, such as compact discs (CDs) or electronic audio, can be played in an educational institution without an additional public performance licence as long as the recording is played for the purpose of education, the audience is primarily students and no profit is gained. The sound recording must be a legal, commercial copy. Live music may be performed without permission under these conditions, as well.

Non-educational uses of music such as for concerts, dances, entertainment, sporting events, ambience, music on hold for telephones, etc., require public performance licences through the Society of Composers Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).

If copying of an audio file does not fall under an exception in the Copyright Act or the audio is not in the public domain, permission must be obtained to reproduce the audio. The Canadian Musical Reproductions Rights Agency (CMRRA) can grant a synchronization licence for reproductions of a musical work in audio-visual productions (that is, films and video). The CMRRA can also grant a mechanical licence that authorizes the reproduction of music on CDs.

For additional details about music and sound recordings, please visit our document Application of the Fair Dealing Guidelines to Musical Works and Sound Recordings.

Film, television, plays and radio

Based on sections 29.5 and 29.7 of the Canadian Copyright Act, films and television programs may be played, without permission, for students on the premise of an educational institution under the following conditions:

  • the copy of the video is legally obtained;
  • the video is played for the purpose of education or training;
  • the audience for whom the material is played is made up of primarily students; and
  • no profit is gained by use of the video.

Under these conditions, a public performance licence does not need to be acquired to show the video. Works, such as a play or piece of music, may be performed live without permission under the above conditions as well. If the video is available on a paid password-protected streaming service, such as Netflix, it cannot be played without permission even if the conditions above are met unless an “educational screening” or “public performance” type of licence is already attached to the video. For additionally information about Netflix terms of use, please see our instructor frequently asked questions page.

Additionally, the exceptions above do not extend to the screening of films for non-educational, non-classroom university events such as social events put on by student or other groups. In order to show a film for such a university event, a licence for showing the film must first be acquired. Please visit our how to show a film on campus page for information about how to acquire a licence for a film showing.

A radio or television news program, or news commentary, may be recorded and played for USask students for educational or training purposes. There is no limit on the length of time the recording may be kept and payment of royalties is not required.

For radio or television programs other than news programs or news commentary, the program(s) – excluding documentaries – may be recorded off-air for preview purposes, provided the copy is kept no longer than 30 days. After 30 days, the copy must be destroyed. If the program is to be used in an educational setting or kept beyond the 30-day preview period, royalties must be paid.

For additional information about copying and using portions of film or television, please see our page about providing course materials on a password-protected course website or learning management system or our document Application of the Fair Dealing Guidelines to Audiovisual Works.

Other exceptions

Other exceptions in the Copyright Act which allow for copying without permission include:

  • Non-commercial user-generated content (the “Mash-Up” Exception) (section 29.21 of the Copyright Act)
    • An individual can use a published or otherwise publicly available existing work to create a new work, as long as:
      1. The new work is being created for only non-commercial purposes.
      2. The existing work being used is a legally-obtained copy.
      3. The existing work being used is cited and the citation includes the source of the original work and the name of the author or creator if their name is available.
      4. The use of the existing work does not substantially adversely affect the copyright owner of the existing work, financially or otherwise.
  • Back-up copies (section 29.4 of the Copyright Act)
    • An individual may make a copy of a work from a legally-obtained source (that is, a work that they have purchased or have a license to use) for back-up purposes in case the copy is damaged or lost. For example, you may copy a song you have purchased from iTunes your computer to an external hard drive.
  • Format shifting because of obsolete technology (section 29.22 of the Copyright Act)
    • If the means to play a video or audio format no longer exists and there is no commercial copy available, a copy may be made in a different format to protect the original for preservation purposes. This means that as long as you can purchase video home system (VHS) players, VHS is a valid format and you are not permitted to copy material from VHS to digital video disc (DVD) without permission from the producer or distributor. Assuming that the program has public performance rights associated with it, those rights would be format-specific, meaning that you would need to purchase public performance rights again if you shift the format of the material.

For information on exceptions specific to copying in libraries, archives and museums, please see our Exceptions in the Copyright Act page. 

Acquiring copyright permission

If your use of a copyright-protected work is not covered by an existing license or an exception in the Copyright Act, such as the fair dealing exception, you have the option of seeking permission directly from the copyright owner. Usually, the creator of a work is the first copyright owner of that work. However, ownership of copyright may be transferred to another individual or entity (for example, to a publisher).

For step-by-step instructions about acquiring copyright permission, please see our getting permission from a copyright owner page.

Getting help

If you have any questions or concerns about copyright, please let us know!

Kate Langrell
Copyright Coordinator
122.13 Murray Library

Note: The information obtained from or through this site does not constitute legal advice.


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