Copyright is everywhere: we all read books and articles, watch videos, listen to music, and use various software and hardware technologies for learning, research, work, civic engagement, and entertainment. As a UBC faculty or staff member, you are working with and using copyrighted material frequently (e.g. preparing course material, writing a report, creating a video, working on a website). As a result, you need to be knowledgeable about copyright.
Copyright is about your ability to copy and use content. Here are the basics: (a) there is no copyright in ideas (those are free); (b) copyright protects the particular expression of an idea, no matter what form that expression takes (writing, musical performance, film, etc.); and (c) the Copyright Act attempts to balance owner's rights against user rights - the point is to enable the owners to bear the fruit of their labour, and to guarantee the public's right to reasonable and fair access to ideas. The Copyright Act sets out a number of circumstances where a user may copy a work or a part of a work without the copyright owner's permission - in all other circumstances, the user cannot copy the work unless the user has the copyright owner's permission.
Computer and internet technology gives one the ability, but not the right to copy a great deal of material without the copyright owner's knowledge. As a result, there is a disconnect between what can be easily (and in most cases, freely) done, and what can legally be done. The speed with which technology has developed has outpaced the efforts to enforce copyright, and this has led to a low level of enforcement and consequences for copyright infringement. This has shaped the public's expectations about what is and what is not ( and what ought and what ought not not) be freely available.
As a result, it can come as a surprise, or at least an unpleasant reminder, that copyright law is not obsolete. It does apply to all content that you 'consume', no matter what form you 'consume' it in. Copyright law determines whether something is in the public domain, freely available for use for a particular purpose, or only available with the copyright holder's permission (and agreement with their terms).
In addition to the reasons set out above, the UBC Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office has come up with three reasons why UBC faculty and staff in particular need to be aware of and respect copyright law.
Myth: I'm working on a project and I need some images for it. I conducted a Google image search and found some good photos; only the pictures with © are copyrighted, right?
Copyright protection exists as soon as a work is created. In Canada, there is no requirement that the work be registered or that the word "copyright" or the symbol © appears on the work. Thus, materials on the Internet, such as images found via Google, are treated the same way under copyright law as any other copyrighted materials. The FAQs on the Copyright @ UBC website provide more information on using images or other material from the Internet for educational purposes, and the Image Sources guide provides sources of images you can use for educational purposes while complying with Canadian copyright law.
Myth: I came across an interesting idea in an article and incorporated it into my presentation in my own words, without citing it. As long as I didn't quote directly from the article, I don't have to cite it right?
Even as a staff member, you are part of the scholarly community at UBC. Accordingly, you are expected to submit original work and give credit for other people's ideas. Avoiding plagiarism means that you must cite direct quotes, but also ideas, opinions, and factual information taken from someone else's work.
While plagiarism is related to copyright, it is not exactly the same. Plagiarism happens when a person presents another person's work or ideas as their own. Copyright infringement happens when a person copies, distributes or uses another person's work without permission and in way that is not allowed by Canadian copyright law.
Be sure to consult UBC's Copyright Guidelines for Faculty, Staff, and Students to make sure you know your rights and responsibilities when it comes to plagiarism and copyright.
Myth: My supervisor didn't mention copyright when discussing an upcoming project. If it was important for our unit to abide by copyright, my supervisor would have mentioned it, right?
As a UBC staff member, you are expected to submit original work, give credit to other peoples' ideas and comply with copyright law in your use of other people's works. If you wish to reproduce part of a copyrighted work, you may only copy the work if the Copyright Act specifically allow you to do so, or if you have express permission from the copyright owner.
According to the Copyright Requirements for UBC Faculty and Staff, failure to comply with copyright law may result in disciplinary action. Staff members may also be personally liable for copyright infringement, and be responsible for the payment of related fees and damages.
Check out the Copyright Guidelines for UBC Faculty, Staff and Students to make sure you know your rights and responsibilities.