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Copyright Educational Resources

This Guide provides the UBC community with comprehensive educational resources on a variety of copyright considerations

Why Should I care?

Why is copyright important to me?

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.

What is copyright, anyway?

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.

Hasn't modern technology made copyright obsolete?

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.

1. It's good scholarly practice.

As mentioned above, copyright law does not protect ideas, it protects the expression of those ideas. It is obvious that in a scholarly context that you must cite the sources of ideas contained in your work. It is no less necessary to ensure that, if you are incorporating someone else's work into your work (whether course materials or research) you do so legally.

2. Employers expect you to be aware of copyright.

Understanding your copyright responsibilities and rights is essential to being a competent digital citizen. Employers expect that staff members understand the Internet, digital best practices and legal obligations. Knowing about copyright will help ensure that you don't get yourself (and your employer) into legal trouble.
More importantly, as a UBC faculty or staff member, you've agreed to comply with copyright. According to UBC Policy 85 on Scholarly Integrity, individuals are personally responsible for the intellectual and ethical quality of their work and must ensure that their scholarly activity meets University standards. In addition, the University expects that all faculty and staff comply with copyright requirements, and, by agreeing to the CWL Terms of Use, all faculty and staff agree to comply with the Copyright Act and the University's Copyright Requirements in their use of the University's computer systems.

3. Copyright doesn't just protect other people's works; it protects yours as well.

Copyright protection applies to works that you create, as the works are created. There is no need to register one's copyright in order for your work to be protected. Knowing the limits of what you can do with others' work will inform you about what rights others have (and don't have) to use your work.
If you have questions about work you create at UBC, please visit the UBC Copyright website Staff FAQs, FAQ 3.2 Who owns the copyright in the works I create at UBC.

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?

Magnifying-Glass.png Reality:

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?

Magnifying-Glass.png Reality:

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?

Magnifying-Glass.png Reality:

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.