What is copyright?
Copyright law applies to literary, musical and artistic works such as plays, recordings, films, photographs, radio and television broadcasts, which prevents the reproduction of the work, in whole or in part, without the author’s consent.
(Webster’s Interactive Encyclopedia, 1996 edition)
What does this really mean?
In Canada, copyright covers everything written, photographed, digitized, recorded or broadcasted. This means that your family photos, the latest novel by Sharon Butala, Saskatoon Public Library’s bookmarks, a Dilbert cartoon or a web page are all protected by copyright.
You cannot copyright an idea or a title. These can, however, be protected by patents or trademarks.
Why does copyright exist?
Copyright laws have developed over the past 300 years. They were designed to insure that authors would be able to gain payment for the works they created. Prior to that, people could copy and republish materials without paying the author or even properly crediting them.
If it doesn’t have the copyright symbol, is it copyrighted?
Yes. For maximum protection copyright should be registered, but in Canada copyright comes into existence at the very moment that the work is created. There is no Canadian requirement for creators to state that the work is copyrighted or to include the copyright symbol somewhere on the work (which is why artists don’t add © after their signatures even though their paintings are copyrighted).
Is there anything that can be freely copied?
Yes. Copyright legislation allows for something called "fair dealing". Basically this means that you are allowed to make one copy of an item for research, personal study, criticism or review.
The legislation also allows libraries to copy journal and newspaper articles for interlibrary loan delivery to patrons using the material for research, personal study, criticism or review.
Anyone is allowed to make a copy of an insignificant part of an item (usually thought of as being less than 10% of a work, but the percentage is not actually formally regulated). You must be careful, however, when applying this rule - a cartoon may represent less than 10% of an entire book BUT it is 100% of the cartoon, so you cannot add it to your library’s web site without permission.
Furthermore, copyright does expire, but the protection period can be considerable (usually 50 years after the death of the author).
Some books and images are published as copyright free or clip-art materials. As long as the source states that the material is copyright free you are able to use it as you wish. But make sure you read the fine print - sometimes there are restrictions on usage (see the Copyright and reprint information for this web site for an example).
If the book was free does it have copyright?
Yes. Copyright is tied to the act of creation, not the method of distribution or whether you paid for the item.
Pamphlets, web sites, printed bookmarks, cartoons in the newspaper are all protected and you cannot reproduce them without permission.
If I am not charging money can I use copyrighted materials without asking?
No. Copyright is not tied to monetary gain. Whether you are creating a pamphlet, an instruction book, a free public presentation or seminar you cannot use materials created by someone else without asking.
What if I have to make more than one copy of something? Do I really have to contact the copyright holder?
Not necessarily. Recognizing the burden placed on people in dealing with copyright, the Government of Canada has created agencies which sign copying licenses with organizations, collect royalties based on copying levels, and pay these royalties to registered authors and other copyright holders.
Access Copyright is the agency most frequently involved with libraries and educational institutions. Licenses have been signed in Saskatchewan with the provincial government, the post-secondary institutions, Saskatchewan Education, and the public libraries.
If you want to copy something not covered by the Access Copyright license, however, you are required to get permission from the copyright owner. Not being able to trace the copyright owner does not release you from these requirements, nor does it protect you from legal action.
If something is out of print can I make a copy to put in my library?
No. Copyright is not tied to availability of the material. Access Copyright licenses may allow for the single reproduction of an out-of-print item, but usually only where the library already owns a copy of the material. Libraries are also allowed to make copies of a few damaged pages where this represents an insignificant part of the original.
Our library has self service copiers. Am I required to monitor what my patrons copy?
No. You are required to display a sign near the photocopier which gives a brief outline of copyright responsibilities. You also cannot counsel people to break copyright law - if they ask what they are allowed to copy you must tell them. You are also required to report to Access Copyright any abuses of the law that you are aware of.
The book I want to copy is published in the United States. How does that affect copyright?
No matter where or when the material was published it is covered by Canadian copyright law. Canadian copyright law protects the works of publishers, authors and others from outside Canada. Even though the item was not created here you still have to get permission to use it. If the copyright holder does not have an arrangement with Access Copyright you would have to contact them directly even though they are outside the country.
When dealing directly with foreign publishers you must insure that they understand that you are asking for rights within Canada. In some cases American copyright laws are less restrictive than Canadian laws (showing videos in classrooms or copying government publications are two examples). In these cases the publisher may tell you that you do not need permission to show the video or copy the document. In fact you must get permission because you are in Canada and governed by our copyright laws.
I don’t understand the rules about videos in libraries.
You are not alone. In Canada there are two classes of videos that are available to libraries - home use rights videos and public performance rights (ppr) rights videos.
Home use rights are exactly that. You are only allowed to show that video in your home to your family. These rights apply to video store rentals, self-recorded videos of television programs and videos purchased in stores. They may not be shown in classrooms, at seminars or during library programs - even if you are not charging for the program. If you are not purchasing ppr for your circulating videos you should put a sign up near the collection informing your patrons that the videos are for home use only.
PPR videos come with the right to show them to non-paying audiences. Sometimes you have to pay more for these rights. The video should clearly state somewhere on the packaging or the cassette that it includes ppr.
Is copyright law the ultimate authority?
Not necessarily. Contract law supersedes copyright law. If you sign a contract with a publisher that says the publication cannot be used for Interlibrary Loan purposes, then you cannot use that item for ILL – even if the loan would fall under the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act.
This does not often happen with books, but does happen with magazines and is very common with electronic databases and paid online journal information.
What is the impact on libraries?
For libraries and librarians, there is a fundamental concern with the balance between the intellectual and economic rights of copyright owners and the rights of library patrons to access needed information.
Digitization and the libertarian spirit of the Internet have made copyright an increasingly complex issue. Copyright legislation and administration is also not necessarily keeping up with these emerging issues. (For example, the Copying License for Public Libraries does not cover the posting and networking of electronic copies of published materials; nor does it cover information downloaded from the Internet.)
Libraries, library associations and librarians must work with governments, publishers and the general public to develop policies and laws that protect all involved while still maintaining the role of the library as an important source of information.