General information

What is Copyright?

Copyright literally means the “right to copy” and is part of a larger area of law, referred to as intellectual property, which protects the intangible or intellectual nature of a work. Copyright protects many types of works and only the copyright owner has the right to reproduce an entire work or a substantial part of it. Intellectual property (IP) includes:

  • Patents (inventions)
  • Trade-marks (logos, words, symbols)
  • Industrial designs (“pretty” shapes or designs of useful items)
  • Confidential information and trade secrets (ideas, concepts, facts)
  • Integrated circuit topography (microchips)
  • Copyright

The rights above are granted for intellectual creativity. Copyright law is intended to protect creators of literary and artistic works (copyright owners) by establishing economic and moral rights, which allow creators to control the use of their works, as well as receive recognition and monetary benefits.

Reproducing a work includes photocopying, scanning, downloading or uploading, and emailing. A work could include written text, art, music, dramatic work, or stand-alone work (e.g. a graph, chart, map, figure, photograph, table or diagram). A work can also be a sound recording, a performance or a communication signal.

In Canada, there is no requirement that a work be registered or that the word "copyright," or the symbol ©, appear on the work. However, it is recommended to use the universal symbol © on any works you have created, as it serves as a reminder to others that the work is protected.  Other countries may have different requirements in order to initiate copyright protection.  In Canada, a creator may choose to register a work through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), which provides a certificate of registration is evidence that your creation is protected by copyright and that you are the registered owner. It can also be used in court as evidence of ownership. 

Copyright law in Canada endeavors to strike a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of users.  Faculty and instructors are often both creators and users of copyrighted works. Many of the uses our faculty and instructors make of copyrighted works are allowed under the Copyright Act’s fair dealing exceptions and/or publisher licenses that have been negotiated and signed by the university. There are limits on fair dealing, however, even if the intent is to provide education.

In general, it is permissible for U of S faculty, instructors, researchers, staff and students to copy much of what is needed for teaching and research purposes because these activities fall within the allowances of the Copyright Act and its exceptions or because the university has signed licenses which permit use of those works. Note that it is good academic practice to cite sources, but citing alone is not considered an appropriate substitute for obtaining copyright permission. If in doubt, consult the Copyright Office.

This website includes information about Canadian copyright law, exceptions to the law, the public domain, protecting your own intellectual property, preparing a thesis, obtaining copyright permission, the consequences of infringing copyright, and more.

The content on this website has been provided as guidelines for using works for educational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice.  Please consult a copyright lawyer if specific legal advice is required. Additionally, the Copyright Office is available to assist you with any questions or concerns you may have.


Copyright – Why should you care?

Use of copyrighted materials is protected under the law in Canada and we are subject to the Canadian Copyright Act. Additionally, the university has implemented policy and guidelines that, as members of the university community, we are required to follow. The University of Saskatchewan respects intellectual property and intellectual property laws, and will take appropriate steps to ensure consistent application of legal requirements throughout the campus.  It is the responsibility of each member of the university community to comply with copyright laws and respect copyright ownership and licensing Please note that in addition to potential liability, staff at the University Libraries, Archives, Printing Services, and the Bookstore have a professional responsibility to respect copyright law and may refuse to copy or print something if it is thought to be an infringement of copyright law.


Materials protected by copyright

Copyright protection exists as soon as a work is created in a fixed form. A fact or idea is not subject to copyright protection, but the expression of the fact or idea is protected.

Copyright is a broad category that protects creators of:

  • Literary, dramatic, artistic, musical works (e.g. Book, letter, e-mail, blog, computer program, compilation, government publication, script, play, film, painting, sculpture, photograph, map, architectural drawing, sheet music, compositions, music video, etc.)
  • Sound recording (e.g. lectures, animal sounds, nature sounds, music, audio book, etc.)
  • Performances (e.g. dancing, singing, acting, etc.)
  • Communication signals (e.g. Pay-per-view, radio, satellite, broadcasts, etc.)

Multiple types of copyright may exist within one work. For example, a musical work may consist of the song and the device that contains the song (e.g. a CD). In this case, the song and the device would be considered two different works and may be protected by copyright as a musical work and sound recording and the lyrics may also be categorized as a literary work. Additionally, a live performance of this song by an artist could also be protected as a performance.


Materials NOT protected by copyright

Some things are not protected by copyright. For example, copyright does not protect factual information, titles, short word combinations, names, characters, slogans, themes, plots, or ideas. These may be used or copied without permission or payment of royalties (unless they happen to be protected under trademark law).

Similarly, materials in the public domain can be copied freely, because copyright protection has either lapsed or because the copyright owner has indicated general permission to make copies. If the latter is the case, make certain you comply with any constraints the owner may have indicated regarding reproduction of the material.


Copyright holders (owners)

Usually, the creator of a work (e.g., one who writes a book, magazine or newspaper article, play, poem, song lyrics or other writings, takes a photograph or makes a film, draws a map, or creates a painting, drawing, or sketch) is the first owner of the copyright in that work. However, ownership of copyright may be transferred (e.g. to a publisher) or waived. Note that if someone owns a copy of a work, that does not mean they own copyright in that work.

In order to publish or reproduce any portion of a work, permission of the copyright owner must be sought. It is a good idea to determine the copyright owner, in case the creator transferred any of the copyrights to another individual or entity. Additionally, if material was created in the course of employment – unless there is an agreement to the contrary – the employer will own the copyrights. Similarly, if a work has been commissioned, copyright will belong to the person or entity that commissioned the work.


Length of copyright protection

Copyright does not last forever. The main purpose of copyright law is to allow creators of works to be rewarded for their creative efforts. Statutory rules were put in place to determine when copyright protection of a work comes to an end. In Canada, copyright “expires” 50 years after the death of the creator (e.g. the "Life plus 50" rule), at which time the work enters the public domain.

For example, if a work was created on April 30, 1976, and the author dies on July 27, 1989, the copyright protection extends from April 30, 1976 to December 31, 2039, at which point it would enter the public domain. If the work was created by more than one person, copyright protection exists for the life of the creator who dies last, the remainder of the calendar year in which that person dies, plus 50 additional years. Both economic rights and moral rights also continue to exist for the same period of time.


If you have any questions about copyright, or would like to schedule an information session for you and your colleagues, please contact the Copyright Office.


Note: The information obtained from or through this site does not constitute legal advice, but is provided as guidelines for using works for educational purposes.

Creative Commons License
All information found on the University of Saskatchewan Copyright website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License unless otherwise noted.