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Copyright & Fair Dealing

Can I play music or other sound recordings in the classroom?

Yes, you may play music or other sound recordings in the classroom for educational or training purposes as long as it is a legal, commercial copy. and there is not a technological measure preventing you from accessing the material.


  • You cannot upload copyright protected music to Moodle or other course management systems.  
  • You cannot burn copies for distribution without permission. 
  • For uploading to Moodle, use music that is in the public domain or are licensed for re-use (e.g. creative commons licenses). View the Finding Music page in the Multimedia Resources Guide for more information on finding this type of music.

If you want to use music for non-educational purposes for example, for background music at a conference or in an athletic facility, a licence must be obtainied from the copyright collective SOCAN.

Section 32.2(3) of the Copyright Act permits the  public perfomance of music in educational institutions, without permission or payment of royalties, if it is:

    "in furtherance of a religious, educational or charitable object"

The performance must take place on the premises of the institution, must be for edcuational or training purposes, must not be for profit and must take place before an audience consisting primarily of students of the institution.

The following information is reproduced directly from Copyright Matters!: Some Key Questions & Answers for Teachers, 3rd edition by Wanda Noel & Jordan Snel.   Although the information is directed to the K-12 market, it can equally be applied to postsecondary.

"The following uses of live and recorded music are permitted by the Copyright Act and therefore do not require permission and payment:

  • in school assemblies (e.g. a recording of O Canada);
  • by a student in a presentation to other students, teachers, assessors or parents (e.g. as part of a presentation during music class)
  • in demonstration activities by students, primarily for other students, teachers, assessors or parents, and for which any admission fee charged covers costs but does not make a profit: (e.g. a concert by a school choir, shows by school bands, gymnastic routines, shows by school bands);
  • during school hours for teaching/learning (e.g. music/dance/dramatic arts classes); and
  • before and after school, and during recess, if the use is for educational purposes (e.g. school radio operated by students for credit and supervised by a teacher).

The following uses of live and recorded music are not permitted by the Copyright Act and therefore require permission and payment:

  • at school dances;
  • at school sporting events;
  • while people are on hold when they telephone the school;
  • at an event where the admission fee is intended to make a profit; and
  • on school premises for no other reason than as background music (e.g. in the classroom, cafeteria, halls, over the PA system, at school events such as fairs, carnivals, sociocultural events)." (Noel, section 12).

Can music be performed in the classroom?

Yes, under Section 29.5 of the Copyright Act, live  performances are not an infringement of copyright  if  done on the premises of an educational institution for educational or training purposes and not for profit, before an audience consisting primarily of students of the educational institution, instructors acting under the authority of the educational institution or any person who is directly responsible for setting a curriculum for the educational institution.

What about musical scores?

Fair dealing permits copying of an entire single musical score from a copyright-protected work containing other musical scores.

The key point is that it must be part of a collection of musical scores. Copying of an entire musical score that is not in a work containing other musical scores is NOT permitted without obtaining permission. 

Fair Dealing allows up to 10% of a musical work to be copied.  So if a book contains a number of songs or musical scores then you can copy the greater of one musical work or 10% of the book.  If the musical score is not contained in a book with other musical scores then fair dealing limits the copying to 10% of a score (which is not generally all that useful).

If you need to obtain permission, generally the music publisher is a good place to start.  At times the right to copy music is given when the music is purchased.  In these cases the music books or sheets will have a notice stating that copying is permitted and no further permission needs to be sought.

Non-commercial user generated content exceptions in the copyright law a.k.a the mashup exception or YouTube exception

Non-commercial user generated content exceptions in the copyright law  a.k.a the mashup exception or YouTube exception

The Copyright Modernization Act Section 29.21, allows individual to use existing works in the creation of a new work, under certain conditions.
  • Must be solely for non-commercial purposes.
  • You must cite all sources used.
  • Do not use material acquired through a contract or license that prevents using the item in a mashup (e.g. iTunes, iStock Photo).
  • Do not break a digital lock to use the material (e.g. you can’t rip a DVD that has encoding that prevents copying)
  • It must be original! The mashup cannot be substitute for, or does not have a substantial adverse effect, financial or otherwise, on existing works.

Seneca Libraries (2014 June, 16). Copyright in "Mashups" [Video file]. Retrieved from

​An Example of a mashup:

Justin Trudeau Singing Work by Rihanna

CBC Music (2016 March, 9). Justin Trudeau Singing Work by Rihanna [Video file]. Retrieved from

Finding Permissions

If Permission is Required:

For the majority of circumstances,  the copyright collective, SOCAN, can provide licences to educational institutions at costs as outlined on their website. 

However a copyright collective  cannot provide licences for the following uses:

  • "in a play performed live (e.g. a drama class's production of My Fair Lady).  In this case, the edcuational institution must obtain copyright authorization from a theatrical agent;
  • in performances on school premises by outside performers (e.g. invited singers, magicaiians, etc.).  In this case, obtaining copyright  authorization is the responsibility of the outside performers; and
  • in activities held in school facilities that are rented or are provided free of charge to outside groups.  In this case, obtaining copyright authorization is the responsibility of the outside group." (Noel, section 12)

 Noel, W. & Snel, J. (2012). Copyright Matters!: Some Key Questions & Answers for Teachers.  3rd ed.  CMEC,