Frequently Asked Questions

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Answers to common copyright questions:


1. What are the laws and rules related to using copyright at Saskatchewan Polytechnic?

Use of copyrighted materials at Saskatchewan Polytechnic is covered by the Copyright Act, Saskatchewan Polytechnic policies and procedures, and licences entered into by Saskatchewan Polytechnic with copyright owners. The Act sets out what you can and cannot do with copyrighted materials. In addition, Saskatchewan Polytechnic has licences with copyright owners, such as subscriptions to electronic databases, which may provide certain rights to content. Consult our Law and Policy page for more.


2. What does copyright cover?

Copyright protects literary, artistic, dramatic, and musical works.  It also protects sound recordings, performances, and communication signals. Protected works include:


  • Literacy Works: Books, computer programs, instruction manuals, journal articles, newspapers, personal notes
  • Dramatic Works: YouTube videos, DVDs
  • Musical Works: Musical scores, song lyrics
  • Artistic Works: Architectural drawings, cartoons, charts, line drawings, maps, paintings, photographs, sculptures
  • Sound Recording: Audio books, recorded music, or oral history
  • Communication Signal: Television shows, radio broadcasts, pay-per-view
  • Live Performances: Musicians’ performances, actors’ performances in a play


3. What is not covered by copyright?

Facts and ideas are not subject to copyright protection. However, the expression of facts and ideas are protected. For example, you may reproduce basic facts such as the symbol for lead is PB, the capital of Canada is Ottawa, or the square root of 16 is 4. These facts are not protected by copyright. Similarly, you are free to reproduce the ideas expressed in a copyrighted work. However, you must use your own words or images to express those ideas. For example, Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book entitled The Tipping Point where he presents the idea that small changes can make a big difference. While you may write about the same idea, you are not permitted to use the exact words that Gladwell used. 


4. How do I know if something is protected by copyright?

Copyright protection arises automatically when a work is created. Generally, copyright continues for 50 years as of the December after the creator’s death. Some exceptions to this general rule are musical works that are protected for 70 years after the release date; and federal and provincial government works that are protected 50 years as of December from the date of first publication. Copyright protection for photographs can be complex because of changes to the Act. Generally, photographs are protected for 50 years after the death of the creator if the photograph was taken after November 2012 or was still protected as of November 2012. 


5. What rights does a copyright owner have?

Copyright owners have many legal rights, including the right to reproduce, publish, adapt, translate, communicate their work by telecommunications, and to authorize a public performance. These rights are qualified by certain exceptions that balance the copyright owner’s interests with the public interest in allowing use of works for purposes such as education and research.


6.  What is fair dealing and how does it relate to copyright?

Fair dealing is an important user’s right in the Copyright Act. It permits use of a copyrighted work without permission or payment of royalties if your purpose is one of eight listed purposes including research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, education, satire, or parody if what you do with the work is “fair”. Whether something is fair depends on the several factors. Consult our Fair Dealing page to learn more. 


7. How long does copyright last?

In Canada, copyright generally lasts for the life of the creator plus 50 years as of December in the year that the creator dies. The length of copyright protection depends on the type of work, whether the work was created by an individual, corporation, or a federal or provincial government, the date of creation, and the date of publication.


8. What is meant by “public domain”? How do I know if something is public domain?

The term public domain refers to works in which copyright protection no longer exists either because it has expired or because the copyright owner has placed the work in the public domain. For example, although the copyright in Shakespeare's plays expired long ago, many of the published editions of his plays contain added original materials (such as footnotes and prefaces) that are copyright protected because the creators of these footnotes and prefaces still retain the copyright for their work. This creates a new copyright in the added footnotes and prefaces, but not in the underlying text of the original work by Shakespeare in which the copyright had expired. Learn more from this University of Alberta Public Domain Flowchart


9. How do I get permission to use someone else’s work?

You ask!  Permission must come from the copyright owner or collective representing the copyright owner. The first step is to identify who the copyright owner is and whether there is a collective that represents the owner. There are a number of copyright collectives in Canada that can provide you permission (in the form of a licence) on behalf of the copyright owner to use a work. If the copyright owner is easily identifiable and locatable, it can often be easier to contact them directly. Often, you will be able to identify the owner somewhere on the work by looking for the copyright symbol, which should have the copyright owner’s name near it. You will often find this at the beginning of a book, at the side of a photograph, or at the bottom of a webpage. It is important that the permission be in writing. Many copyright owners will give permission to academic users without requiring payment. You should keep a copy of any permission received. Consult our Obtaining Permission page to learn more.   


10. What are moral rights and what do they have to do with copyright?

Moral rights are additional rights held by creators of works. They consist of rights that protect the integrity of a work and the reputation of its creator. The right of attribution is the right to always be identified as the creator of a work. The right of integrity is the right not to have a work modified. The right of association protects a work from being associated with goods or services in a way that is prejudicial to the creator’s reputation. These rights are important for creators to ensure they receive appropriate recognition for their works and for prohibiting prejudicial changes to their works.


11. Are there special rules for scanning?

Scanning is permitted if the copying falls within one of the exceptions in the Copyright Act, such as fair dealing, or where no permission is required, such as scanning a public domain work. If the use falls outside these exceptions and the work is not in the public domain, you need to obtain the copyright owner’s permission.  Consult our Before You Copy page to learn more.


12. Do I need to ask permission to link to a website?

Linking directly to a webpage containing the content you wish to use is almost always permissible. Content linked to should include the full details of the creator and source of material. If you have any reason to believe that the content was posted without the consent of the copyright owner, you should not include the link. You may suspect that content was posted without the consent of the copyright owner if the content is not consistent with the other content present on the website.


13. Can I include copyrighted materials in my assignments and presentations?

Students may include copyrighted material in their assignments and presentations if the copying is permitted by an exception in the Copyright Act, such as fair dealing, a Saskatchewan Polytechnic licence, a permission is obtained, or if the use does not require permission. Consult our Before You Copy page to learn more.


14. Who can I talk to at Saskatchewan Polytechnic if I have a copyright question?

The Copyright Office is here to support you while you navigate copyright issues. If you have copyright questions, contact us at


15. How can I learn more about copyright?

Consult our Learn More About Copyright page. 


This website provides educational information. It does not provide legal advice. 


Source: University of Waterloo. (n.d.). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from [Reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.]