FAQs, Tips and How-Tos


What is included under the various categories of copyright-protected works?

The categories of copyright-protected works include: "literary", "artistic", "dramatic" or "musical." The meaning of these categories, as set out in the Copyright Act, may not always coincide with the common definition. Consult What Does Copyright Protect? for more information and examples.

Is registering copyright mandatory?

In Canada, registering a copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is not a prerequisite for protection of a work under the law. Rather, the economic and moral rights granted under the Copyright Act apply immediately upon creation of an original literary, artistic, dramatic, or musical work. Although not mandatory, many owners choose to register their copyright as doing so does provide advantages. For a brief overview of this process, see Registering Copyright.

Additional reading on copyright and the registration process is available in CIPO's online resource A Guide to Copyright.

What is the public domain?

Copyright is a time-allocated right and when it expires, the content to which it once applied is freely available for use by the public. Collectively, these copyright-free works are referred to as the "public domain."

In Canada, the general term of copyright is life of the author plus an additional 70 years. In cases of joint-authorship, copyright in a work subsists for 70 years following the death of the last surviving author. These terms were increased from life plus 50 years effective 30 December 2022, without retroactive effect.

There are some exceptions to the general term, so use the public domain flowchart and the additional resources on the Public Domain page to help you assess whether the work you want to use is still under copyright.

What is considered best practice when sharing resources online?

As an alternative to copying and sharing material available online, consider providing others with hyperlinks to the original source. Why? Sharing a link does not create an additional copy and if there is no copy made, there is no copyright issue. See Accessing Library Online Resources for instructions on how to create persistent links to licensed library resources.

Tips for using images

Whenever possible, consider substituting images that are still under copyright with free online resources that have been made available for public use under terms and conditions that are user-friendly. If the image is copyright protected, and neither fair dealing nor other exceptions apply to your use, permission is required. To learn more, consult Using Images, and watch the OUC Instructional Module on Images.

Copyright assignment vs. licensing

When publishing, you may be asked to transfer or assign your copyright to the publisher, or you may be asked to grant a licence that allows the publisher to use your work under set terms. The type of agreement you sign is significant as it determines whether you are free to use your work in the future or whether you need to ask the publisher for permission. This distinction is of particular importance to graduate students who wish to incorporate their published research into a thesis or dissertation. See Publication of an Original Work for an overview of transferring ownership vs. licensing use.

When granting a licence, check whether you are granting permission on an "exclusive" or "non-exclusive" basis. If a licence is exclusive this means you cannot licence further use of the work to others, whereas a non-exclusive licence has no such limitations. See Types of Licences for more information.

Assignments, transfers, and exclusive licences must all be in writing to be valid; verbal authorization is sufficient when granting permission on a non-exclusive basis.

How to order a coursepack

If you are thinking about assigning a coursepack as part of your Course Materials, you may find it helpful to know that SUBprint handles printing and production, while the Copyright Office performs the copyright review.

Place your coursepack print order with SUBprint, and submit your Copyright Review Request Form to copyright@ualberta.ca at the same time.

How to locate licence terms for ejournals

Licence information on how ejournals may be used and shared is available in the U of A Library catalogue. From the homepage, click the “Find eJournals” tab and search for the title of the ejournal. In the results list, the “Conditions of Use” link is to the right of the journal's title. Note that if a journal’s terms are not defined, it is necessary to look at the conditions of use for each individual article.

For article searches, the journal’s "Conditions of Use" link is on the left-hand side of the article’s item record.

How to link to U of A Library's online resources

Resources available in the U of A Library's digital holdings (i.e., online journals, ebooks, databases, newspapers, image collections, etc.) are acquired under licence or subscription and the terms of these agreements govern use. While some agreements allow copying and sharing, many do not. Avoid restrictions by providing other CCID holders with a persistent (stable) link to the original source. See Accessing Library Online Resources for instructions on how to create persistent links to licensed library resources.