Fair Copying Guidelines

Some materials relevant to your teaching or research may be copied without restriction. Older titles, for example, may be in the public domain. As for more recent works, it is becoming more common for rightsholders to share content they've created through Creative Commons licenses, or similar statements, that explicitly allow significant copying and sharing of the specified materials for certain puposes (generally non-commercial educational and/or research use); similarly, the Open Education Resource (OER) movement encourages the creation of of educational materials that are licensed so as to provide free and perpetual permission for users to retain, revise, remix, reuse, and redistribure these works. Relatedly, it may be possible to contact a rightsholder directly to secure permission for copying or other uses of certain materials.  ​

It is more likely, however, that most of the third-party material (that is, material you did not create yourself) that you will wish to use while conducting UPEI teaching or research will be protected by copyright, and identifying and contacting the rightsholders of this material will often be impractical (or impossible). In most such cases, though, copying of this material for educational or research purposes can still be done, thanks to the following provisions:

  1. Most of the content in the Library's subscription databases and e-book and e-journal (see the "Journals" tab at library.upei.ca) collections comes with licensing provisions that permit at least some copying and sharing for purposes of instruction and research.
  2. A certain amount of copying and sharing of copyrighted materials for purposes of instruction and research is allowed under the educational exceptions and fair dealing sections of Canada's Copyright Act.

2.1. Educational Exceptions

These exceptions to copyright protection explicitly permit certain uses of copyrighted material at educational institutions, including universities -- a good overview is provided by the University of Saskatchewan Library's Copyright Office . Unfortunately, some of these exceptions are so encumbered with caveats and limitations as to greatly limit their practical application, but there are several that we know of being put to good use here at UPEI, including:

  • s. 29.5 of the Copyright Act provides that the "performance in public of a cinematographic work" [i.e. showing a film in class], so long as it is done for educational or training purposes. 
  • s. 30.04 of the Act allows that any material available on the Internet can be shown in class (and/or reproduced as handouts and/or posted to a learning management system), so long as the source is properly cited and the work was not protected by a "digital lock" or posted with a notice explicitly forbidding educational reuse.


2.2. Fair Dealing = Fair Play

The UPEI Library spends over a million dollars annually on purchases and subscriptions for a vast range of print and electronic publications. Having lawfully acquired this material on behalf of our users, we expect to be able to take every reasonable measure to share it with them, whether through lending and or via of the database / e-book / e-journal platforms outlined above. But what is “reasonable”? It is here that fair dealing comes into play.

In its landmark 2004 ruling in CCH Canadian Ltd. v. the Law Society of Upper Canada (sometimes referred to as the “CCH Decision”), the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed fair dealing as a user right under the Copyright Act, and laid out the following six-point test of “fairness”:

(a) the purpose of the proposed copying, including whether it is for research, private study, review, criticism or news reporting [education, parody, and satire were added to the list of purposes in 2012];
(b) the character of the proposed copying, including whether it involves single or multiple copies, and whether the copy is destroyed after it is used for its specific intended purpose;
(c) the amount ** or proportion of the work which is proposed to be copied and the importance of that work;
(d) alternatives to copying the work, including whether there is a non-copyrighted equivalent available;
(e) the nature of the work, including whether it is published or unpublished; and
(f) the effect of the copying on the work, including whether the copy will compete with the commercial market of the original work.

The Supreme Court's support for fair dealing as a user right was strongly reaffirmed in its "pentalogy" of rulings on five copyright-related cases, issued in July, 2012, and, again, in the Court's July, 2021 York University v. Access Copyright decision.

** How Much Is Fair?

There is still no quantitative limit in Canadian law or jurisprudence as to how much copying of a given work (book, periodical issue, film, etc.) is allowable under fair dealing. Of the several fair dealing policies and guidelines promulgated in Canadian academia in the years since the 2004 and 2012 Supreme Court rulings, the most holistic and balanced is the CAUT [Canadian Association of University Teachers] Guidelines for the Use of Copyrighted Material (2013), which highlights the following "Amount" considerations:

In assessing how much of a work is fair to copy, copyright law does not set a single fixed percentage.
However, as a general rule: Copying 10 percent of a work is likely to be fair.  Copying more than 10 percent of a work (up to and including the entire work) may be fair depending on the circumstances. For example:

- Copying an entire chapter from a book is likely to be fair.
- Copying an entire article from a periodical publication is likely to be fair.
- Copying an entire short story, play, poem or essay from a book or periodical publication is likely to be fair.
- Copying an entire entry from an encyclopedia, dictionary, annotated bibliography or similar reference book is likely to be fair.
- Copying an entire reproduction of an artistic work from a book or periodical publication is likely to be fair.
- Copying a single musical score from a book or periodical publication is likely to be fair.

As the percentage of a work being copied increases towards and past 20 percent, more care should be exercised. If, for example, a book only contains two chapters then reproducing an entire chapter may be unfair.

If you have questions you can contact Simon LloydDonald Moses or your liaison librarian.

Created by: Simon Lloyd, B.A., M.L.I.S.
University Archives and Special Collections Librarian
Phone: 902-566-0536
Date Created: 10-March-2011
Last Updated: 02-April-2020