Canadian Legal FAQs

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Copyright - Exemptions and Exceptions

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Fair Dealing

What kinds of actions does the fair dealing exemption cover?

The fair dealing exemption says that certain activities, like copying part of a book or reproducing portions of a play, do not violate copyright when they are undertaken for certain reasonable purposes. Fair dealing covers the following different kinds of actions:

  • fair dealing for the purpose of research or private study;
  • fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review, provided that the proper acknowledgements as to the source and author are given;
  • fair dealing for the purpose of news reporting, provided that the proper acknowledgements as to the source and author are given.

Many people copy music from CDs onto tapes so that they can play it in their car or portable cassette player. Is this a violation of the copyright?

No. This situation is covered by the exemption dealing with private copying of sound recordings. However, there are strict limitations on this exemption. It is only for private use. It will not protect someone who

  • sells, rents, or offers the recording for sale or rent;
  • distributes the recording whether or not for the purpose of trade;
  • communicates the recording to the public by telecommunication;
  • publically performs the recording.

To compensate an artist or copyright holder, a levy is added to all blank audio tapes sold in Canada. That levy is then paid to the appropriate copyright collective.

Educational Exemptions

Does the educational exemption mean that schools can do whatever they want to with copyrighted materials without violating copyright law?

No. The educational exemptions in the Copyright Act very clearly set out what educational institutions can and cannot do when it comes to dealing with any of the rights protected by copyright.

For example, educational facilities are granted specific exemptions for

  • reproduction for instruction, such as manually onto a dry-erase board, flip chart, or in a form suitable for displaying onto an overhead projector or similar device;
  • reproduction for a test or examination;
  • limited publication in a literary collection, mainly composed of non-copyright matter, of short passages from copyrighted works which are not themselves published for the use of educational institutions.

If the work is available commercially, these exemptions don't apply, except in the case of material manually copied onto a board or chart. There are other recent requirements governing the recording and use of works transmitted by telecommunications.

What about school performances? My daughter's school is planning to put on a play this year. If they perform it without getting permission, will they violate the copyright in the play?

That depends on why and where a play or other performance is being held. Under certain conditions, the Copyright Act does allow educational institutions, without requiring permission, to hold the following events in public:

  • a live performance, primarily by students of the educational institution;
  • the performance of a sound recording;
  • the performance in public of a work or other subject-matter at the time of its communication to the public by telecommunication.

What are the conditions that attach to these kinds of school performances?

In order to qualify for an educational exemption, these performances must be

  • performed on a non-profit basis;
  • staged on the school premises;
  • performed for educational or training purposes;
  • performed before a limited audience consisting primarily of
    • students of the educational institution;
    • instructors acting under the authority of the educational institution;
    • any person who is directly responsible for setting a curriculum for the educational institution.

Libraries, Archives and Museums

Why do exemptions apply to libraries, archives and museums?

Until recently, libraries, archives and museum didn't enjoy any special protection when it came to copyright. This was a problem, since these institutions often must make copies of deteriorating or damaged works, or as part of the management of their collections. Also, they often make copies of copyrighted materials for researchers, teachers or students. But because libraries, archives and museums don't make those copies for its own private use, it didn't qualify for the fair dealing exemptions, or the educational exemptions set out in the Copyright Act. And to complicate matters, libraries often have photocopy machines at which members of the public copy materials from the library collection. Libraries don't want to be responsible for copyright violations taking place at these machines.

To help solve this problem, the Act was recently amended to provide libraries, archives and museums, including those that form part of an educational institution, with special exemptions that recognize their unique role.

What special exemptions do libraries, archives and museums enjoy?

Subject to specific limitations, libraries, archives and museums, including those in educational institutions, can

  • make a copy of a deteriorating, damaged or lost work;
  • make a copy of a work for restoration, on-site consultation, record keeping and cataloguing, insurance purposes or police investigation, or in an alternate format where the existing one is obsolete;
  • make a copy of work that is, or is contained in an article published in a newspaper or periodical for patrons involved in research or private study;
  • allow copies of works to be made at photocopy machines installed on their premises for use by patrons, where the prescribed notice warning of infringement of copyright is posted;
  • in the case of archives, make a copy of an unpublished work that is deposited in the archive.

In addition, libraries, archives and museums in educational institutions currently have the benefit of the educational exemptions.

What kinds of limitations apply to these library exemptions?

These library exemptions do not apply where

  • with respect to the management of a collection, a commercial copy is available in a medium and of a quality that is appropriate for the purposes.
  • with respect to copies for patron research and private study, more than one copy is made, or the work is a work of fiction or poetry or a dramatic or musical work, or the patron has not satisfied the library, archive or museum that the patron will not use the copy for another purpose. Also, certain kinds of articles (such as from a newspaper) must be at least one year old before the copy is made.
  • with respect to copies at photocopy machines in the institution, the institution, library, archive or museum has not entered into an agreement with a copyright collective that is authorized by copyright owners to grant licences on their behalf, or with the copyright holder directly.

This page was last updated in May, 2000.


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