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Copyright: Getting Started

Copyright information for NAIT staff and students.

copyright - the good, the bad, and the quirky

"How is an aspiring monkey photographer supposed to make it if she can’t stop the rampant internet piracy of monkey works?" 

Sarah Jeong, The Guardian, 6 August 2014. See here for the article.

photograph (public domain) courtesy of Wikipedia.

And for a statement from the monkey, courtesy of Bill Barol and the New Yorker; see here.

Update: September 2017 - see CBC article here.


Copyright is a system of limited rights. Those limits exist in order to ensure the goals of copyright (creativity, innovation and expansion of knowledge) are not thwarted by the functioning of copyright. The notion of a limited system is not new; it has been this way since copyright entered modern law in 1710. 

Some limits take form in Canadian law through exceptions; these are statements in the Copyright Act that ensure that unauthorized copies of copyrighted work may be made for socially beneficial purposes. (Education is one such purpose.) But applying a limit, or using an exception, is a decision to be handled with care.

Copyright is a nuanced subject. There is much to consider when copying works. We have endeavored to anticipate common questions about copyright and invite you to explore this guide. Topics include: the key concepts about the system of copyright, fair dealing, support and resources, information about freely available materials, and common questions. If you are looking for particular information, and it is not here, please let us know -- this guide will evolve to best serve the NAIT community.

Getting Started

In Section 3.1 of the Copyright Act, copyright is defined as: "the right to produce or reproduce a work, or any substantial part thereof...". Substantial is not defined; it is a matter of impression. But it necessarily follows that if one is copying an insubstantial amount of work, then copyright is not an issue. (More details concerning insubstantiality can be found here. Or just ask the Copyright Office.)

If  the amount of work to be copied is substantial, then consider if an exception might be appropriate for your copying needs. There are many exceptions (including some directed particularly at educational institutions) but the principal exception is Fair Dealing. This  is defined in Section 29 of the Copyright Act: "Fair dealing for the purpose of research, private study, education, parody or satire does not infringe upon copyright." Note that no further instruction is given in the law. However, the Supreme Court of Canada has provided considerable guidance on this matter; the Court emphasizes that fair dealing is a contextual matter and must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The Copyright Office will help with this determination as needed.

Moreover, national educational organizations have developed baseline guides to assist with applying fair dealing when copying modest amounts of material. For instance, in 2012 Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) issued a guide that describes copying of 10% of a work, or one chapter, as within Fair Dealing. NAIT adopted these guidelines; faculty who wish to operate solely within these measures may do so. But again, bear in mind that Fair Dealing is not solely determined by measure; faculty are encouraged to contact the Copyright Office for a more precise analysis of the situation at hand.

Finally, if the copying under consideration is not insubstantial, and does not satisfy the conditions of an exception, it is appropriate to contact the copyright holder and arrange for a license to use the work. Again, please contact the Copyright Office for assistance with submitting such a request.

Educational Copying, Copyright and Canada

NAIT recognizes and gives due respect to creators' rights under the Copyright Act. NAIT also recognizes and gives due respect to users' rights found within the same Act, as encouraged by the Supreme Court of Canada. These limits on copyright's allow for some unauthorized uses of copyright-protected material in educational settings. This guide provides some information in this vein; for more details, please contact the Copyright Office at 780-491-3048.

For some background about Canada's road to a progressive system of copyright, see here.


Canadian Association of University Teachers. Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material  (Ottawa: CAUT, 2013)

Murray, Laura and Samuel Trosow. Canadian Copyright  -- A Citizen's Guide, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2013) NAIT Library 346.0482 M981 2013.

Nair, Meera. An excerpt from "The System of Copyright", Mediascapes 4th ed. edited by Leslie Regan Shade (Toronto: 2014) NAIT Library 302.230971 M489 2014.

Noel, Wanda and Jordan Snel. Copyright Matters (Ottawa: CMEC/CTF/CSBA, 2012).

Policy and procedure for use of copyright-protected material at NAIT.

Contact Us

Meera Nair, Ph.D
Copyright Officer
Learning and Teaching Commons
U200D, 11762 106 Street
Edmonton, AB, Canada T5G 2R1
P: 780.491.3048
Send Email 
Library Services
Learning and Teaching Commons
U310, 11762 106 Street
Edmonton, AB, Canada T5G 2R1
P: 780.471.8777
(toll-free 1.877.222.1722)
Send Email