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WRHA Virtual Library: Copyright


What are copyright and licensing?

Copyright is the exclusive legal right to publish, copy, and sell a work. It's usually granted to the creator of a particular work (which includes not only writing but also artistic works and performances, among other things) at the time of the work's creation, for a set term.

There is no requirement that a work be officially registered, marked with a copyright symbol, etc, in order to be protected by copyright in Canada. Just because something is freely available online does not mean it is not protected by copyright.

However, some works are in the public domain, for example because the term of copyright has expired; these works can be used by anyone for any purpose. Additionally, under Canadian law there are limited exceptions to copyright called fair dealing, which allow use of "short excerpts" for the purposes of research, private study, and education, among others.

Licensing is a means for a copyright holder to allow particular usage of a work. A license dictates the terms under which the work can be used, and what the person using it can or cannot do with it.

How can I use copyrighted materials?

Whenever you're using materials from the library collections, you should make sure to follow our Terms of Use. This means that if you want to reuse content that is not openly licensed, you will either need to follow Fair Dealing principles or request permission from the author or publisher.

This applies to both text and images. See our Images guide for help locating freely licensed images and identifying how to cite images.

Open licensing

Open access resources are made available under an open license, which allows for them to be accessed and reused with far fewer restrictions – in other words, they meet the 5 Rs. There are many types of open licenses, but Creative Commons licenses are the most common. There are six different "flavors" of CC licenses; all require that the original creator be attributed, but they vary in terms of whether modification, commercial reuse, and relicensing is allowed. For more information, see our Open Access guide.

diagram showing the terms of the various CC licenses

CC-licensed works require an attribution statement when they are reused. This one is CC BY-SA and is from Foter.