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Copyright & Fair Dealing

Can I copy images to use in my course presentations and assignments?

Most images you find in print material or on the Internet are copyright protected. There are educational exceptions in the Copyright Act that allow you to make some limited use of copyrighted images in your course presentations or papers for educational purposes.In addition, for non-commercial use, there is an exception for non-commercial user generated content.

Please see below for more details.

Best practices for copying images

Images include: figures, tables, graphs, photographs, charts and diagrams.

  • Use caution and check the copyright statements or terms of use for each site. Note: Permission to use images is often located in a website's fine print, such as the 'Terms of Use' or 'Legal Notices'.  Check the terms for restrictions or limitations. Please keep in mind that many sites purchase photography that is licensed and for which they do not own the copyright.
  • Use images that are in the public domain or are licensed for re-use (e.g. creative commons licenses).
    • View the Finding Images page in the Video, Images & Music Guide for more information on finding this type of image.
  • Always cite your sources:  indicate the title, creator and source for each image.
    In a PowerPoint presentation or a video clip, your citations can be listed on a separate slide.
  • Use images that contribute to the content of the work and reinforce the educational aspect of the paper or presentation.
  • to the best of your ability, ensure the copy of the image is made from a lawful source.
  • You always have the option of requesting permission from the copyright holder to use an image   This may not always be easy or quick, but is an option if you are unsure, or if required by the terms of use.

 A note about Google Images and Microsoft Office/Bing ImagesUse only if you can cite the original image from the original webpage or if you have permission from the copyright owner.

What about charts and tables?

Charts and tables are protected by copyright like images. Did you know that ideas cannot be copyrighted? Copyright protects the original words or images that express an idea. You can recreate graphs and tables from raw data without infringing on the copyright of the original creators.

Copying the ideas of others without giving credit is plagiarism. Always provide credit for the original source of ideas and data when writing a paper, or creating charts and diagrams!

What about book covers?

A book cover or jacket is a creative work and the creator is generally not the author of the book itself. If using the fair dealing exception, please weigh the criteria carefully. Although the use may be educational and not for profit, the book cover is art or photography and not part of the book, so its use does not fall within the usual 10% excerpt from a book. Obtaining permission would be the favored option but often the publisher is not the copyright holder for the book jacket and only has permission to reproduce with the book.  Obtaining permission from the actual copyright holder could be time consuming and difficult. If after careful consideration your use of a book cover falls within the fair dealing exception, it is recommended to  use thumbnail, low resolution images if available.

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

Educational exceptions in the copyright law

Reproduction for instruction

Under Section 29.4 (1) of the Copyright Act, you are permitted to project an image for the purposes of education or training on the premises of an educational institution. Distance courses via the university's web conferencing software, e.g. Blackboard Collaborate or BBC Ultra, are included under the premises of an educational institution.

Work available through Internet

The Copyright Modernization Act, Section 30.04, allows educational institutions, for educational purposes, to reproduce, save, download and share publicly available materials that are on the Internet, under certain conditions.

You can reproduce an entire image from the Internet, as long as:

  • the website is not questionable or is not using 3rd party material without the copyright owner's consent.
  • the content is not password protected or otherwise restricted from public access.
  • there is not a clearly visible posting on the website that prohibits educational use (and not merely the copyright symbol).
  • you do not need to break or circumvent a digital lock to obtain a copy of the material.
  • you provide the proper citation for the image(s).

Exception for "Fair Dealing"

The "Fair Dealing" exception allows for  the use of copyright materials for educational purposes under the following conditions:

  • You must properly attribute:  indicate the title, author and source for each image.
  • You must comply with the amounts and limits as defined in the Fair Dealing GuidelinesUnder Fair Dealing you can use one entire image from a compilation of images (e.g. a gallery of images on the Web; a book with images) or up to 10% of a stand-alone image (an image that is not part of a larger compilation but is on its own).
  • Copying is more likely to be fair if it is done for a limited audience. For example, posting material on a secure system with password protection is more likely to be fair than uploading material to the open Internet

Finding and Using Images

Finding Images

Create ImagePlease check our Finding Images guide for some helpful sources for finding a wide variety of images for presentations and papers. 

Remember to check your rights permissions at all times. Images must be properly cited, like any other source.




Photo credit: gfpeck. (2010, March 29). Create [image]. Retrieved from