Copyright and Fair Dealing

The Issue

You might be thinking: What does copyright have to do with students? The answer is, a lot. The Copyright Act of Canada exists to protect authors from having their original works used unfairly, otherwise known as copyright infringement. This guarantee of protection helps to encourage creativity and innovation – two important qualities that help to propel our society forward. However, in some cases being too restrictive can excessively hinder the flow of information and ideas and cause harmful effects.  For example, can you imagine how difficult it would be for news stations to report the news if they were not allowed to show any copyrighted clips, photos, or quotes? This is why Canada introduced ‘fair dealing’ as an exemption to copyright protection.




Fair dealing allows for people to use copyrighted works for specific purposes and within specific parameters, without breaking the law. In Canada, the activities that fit under fair dealing include: research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, and news reporting. The most pertinent areas of fair dealing for students are research, private study, and education. These copyright exemptions allow for information to flow more freely in an educational setting, which in turn promotes learning. Without fair dealing, students wouldn’t be able to photocopy an article from their school library, copy a photo to use in an assignment, show a short video or music clip during a class presentation, and more. Class instruction would also suffer without fair dealing, since teachers would be subject to the same restrictions.


In 2012, Canada’s Copyright Act was amended through the Copyright Modernization Act to expand the scope of educational uses considered as fair dealing. This Act made several positive changes for students, including adding ‘education’ as a fair dealing activity, adding provisions to help facilitate distance education, and expanding copyright exemptions for libraries, archives, and museums. However, the Copyright Act must undergo a legislative review every five years. This means that the next review will occur later in 2017! Since the changes made in 2012 helped to foster a more accessible and quality post-secondary system, we want to ensure that these provisions remain a part of Canada’s copyright law.


Our Solution

Future amendments to the Copyright Act must ensure a fair balance of the rights granted to copyright holders with the rights of the public – particularly students, educators, and educational institutions. Universities, colleges, and technical institutes are places where students learn together, not alone. This is facilitated by sharing novel ideas, insights, and information. CASA believes the current fair dealing provisions are essential to this. That is why we believe they must remain intact during the upcoming legislative review of the Copyright Act of Canada.


Page updated in 2017.