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Copyright and Fair Dealing

What is Copyright?

Copyright literally means the right to copy.  The Copyright Act grants a series of rights to the creators of works giving them the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, distribute or sell their works. Only the copyright owner has the right to decide when and how the work is copied. In addition

Who Owns The Copyright in a Work?

Copyrights are usually held by:

  • The author/creator ONLY


  • The author/creator’s employer, if the work was created as part of a person’s job.


  • The author/creator AND a publisher (as agreed by the author)


  • The publisher ONLY (as agreed by the author)

What is Open Access and Creative Commons?

Both Open Access and Creative Commons are online internet sites that provide access and use of materials without requiring permissions for the use of those materials usually through various types of licenses.

Open Access

Provides access to peer reviewed scholarly materials which allow readers to view, download and copy materials. Terms of use are set by the individual creator and range from partial access to unrestricted use. The user must read the terms of use to know hot the material can be used. Examples of Open Access sites are OpenDOAR and DOAJ.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that enables creators to share their materials via a set of copyright licenses. There are standardized licenses that give the public permission to share and use works based on the rights the creator has chosen. Rights vary from some rights reserved to all rights reserved. The user must read the accompanying license to know how the material can be used.

Public Domain

A work in the public domain is free for everyone to use without permission or paying royalties. The phrase 'public domain' is a copyright term referring to works that belong to the public.Works can be in the public domain for a variety of reasons: because the term of copyright protection has expired; because the work was not eligible for copyright in the first place; or because the copyright owner has given the copyright in the work to the public. "

Note: These categories do not include traditional knowledge which exists outside of copyright and its exceptions.

When original works are created, they are automatically protected under Canadian copyright law
Authors/creators may register their works with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to prove that they are the owners of the works should court cases ever arise
Generally, copyright “lasts for the life of the creator, the remainder of the calendar year in which the creator dies, and for 50 years following the end of the calendar year” (CIPO, 2011)
Note: This will likely change to a longer period once the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement is passed.

Information for Faculty

Reserves and Moodle
The Library is pleased to offer a reserves service for Faculty.  For more information about this service, which includes tracking down material, digitizing according to copyright legislation, tips on creating links to licensed content for reading lists in your Moodle course sites, and more please drop by the Library in person, phone 902-457-6250 or e-mail

Course Material and Copyright
It has come to the University's attention that there is a website known as Coursehero which students have been using to upload course materials.  If you encounter this, and do not want your materials posted, a memo from the Vice President Academic was sent to all faculty outlining steps to take in these situations.  For more information, contact the University Librarian for assistance. 

Thesis Advisors
If you are a thesis advisor, please note the important information for Graduate students. More guidance for graduate students will be coming soon.


Information for Graduate Students: E-thesis Guidelines

  • Are you aware of the copyright issues related to the electronic deposit of your thesis? 
  • Have you correctly used copyrighted material in your thesis?

Graduate theses are publications of Mount Saint Vincent University.  When graduate students submit their theses, they are made accessible via the Library's Mount E-Commons and included in the Library and Archives Canada collection.  

It is essential that graduate students seek permission to use copyrighted material in their thesis.

Seeking permissions takes time; it is recommended that you plan well in advance to gather permission for the addition of extra material in your thesis (e.g. published text, images, tables, figures, etc.).     

Please consult the guides below for more information.  For questions about copyright, send a message to

Video: Traditional Knowledge

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License.
Creative Commons License

You may copy the guide for noncommercial purposes as long as credit is included. Please be aware that the guide may contain links to subscription based services for which access is restricted. We encourage you to license your derivative works under Creative Commons as well to encourage sharing and reuse of educational materials.