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Student Copyright Guide

What is Fair Dealing?

Fair dealing is a user's right in the Copyright Act that allows the use of short excerpts from copyright-protected works without payment or permission from the copyright owner, for the following eight specific purposes

  • Education
  • Research
  • Private study
  • Criticism
  • Review
  • Parody
  • Satire
  • News reporting

Note: If your purpose is criticism, review or news reporting, you must mention the source and author of the work for it to considered be fair dealing. 

Copyright Act, Section 29

Six Factor Fair Dealing Analysis: How can I determine if a use is fair?

Determining if a use is fair is done on a case-by-case basis. Each use of a copyright protected work has nuances and idiosyncrasies. Just because a use was fair in the past does not necessarily mean it is fair in the present.

The Supreme Court of Canada outlined six factors to help determine if a particular use (or "dealing") of a copyright-protected work is fair:

  1. Purpose
    • Is the use one of the eight purposes permitted under fair dealing (education, research, private study, criticism, review, news reporting, parody, or satire)? If so, it is more likely to be considered fair. 
  2. Character
    • How is the work being used? Is the work being widely distributed? 
    • If a single copy is used for a permitted purpose, it is more likely to be considered fair.
  3. Amount
    • How much of the work is being copied?
    • If the amount copied is trivial, the use is more likely to be considered fair. However, it may be possible to deal fairly with an entire work. For example, there may be no other way to criticize or review a photograph or research journal article, unless the whole work is copied. 
    • You can continue reading in the "What's a 'short excerpt'?" section below
  4. Nature of the Work 
    • Was the work previously published? 
    • If the work is unpublished or confidential, the use is less likely to be considered fair. However, a court of law may also consider whether the copy serves a public interest. 
  5. Available alternative
    • Is there a suitable alternative to the work that is not protected by copyright? If so, the use is less likely to be considered fair.
  6. Effect
    • Is the copy likely to compete with the market of the original? If so, the use is less likely to be considered fair.

Note: A use does not need to satisfy all of these factors do be considered fair.


CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada
Reference: CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 339, 2004 SCC 13

What's a "short excerpt"?

The Copyright Act does not define "short excerpt". Please note that you still need to quote and cite materials appropriately, unless otherwise noted in the copyright notice. VIU developed its definition of a "short excerpt" from the CMEC Fair Dealing Guidelines and CAUT Guidelines for Use of Copyrighted Material. VIU has adopted the following guidelines to help instructors decide if a particular use is fair: 

  • Up to 10% of a copyright-protected work (including literary works, sound recordings, and audiovisual works)
  • One chapter from a book
  • A single article from a periodical
  • An entire newspaper article or page
  • An entire entry from an encyclopedia, annotated bibliography, dictionary, or similar reference work

In cases where the work is an anthology or collection that includes complete works that are otherwise available in separate volumes, this may not be applicable. In such cases, please contact the Copyright Office for clarification.

Note: license agreements for electronic resources take precedence over legislative allowances. Please check the Terms of Use for the electronic resource or reach out to the Copyright Office for assistance. 

Copying that exceeds the above limits requires permission from the copyright owner. 

Examples of short excerpts in use

Students can use short excerpt from a copyright-protected work as: 

  • A part of their research
  • A posting on VIULearn (or another password-protected learning management system)

Note: license agreements for electronic resources take precedence over legislative allowances

How can lower my risk of infringing on copyright? 

Fair dealing is an interpretation. To lower risk, consider the guidelines above and the following best practices:

  • Use the content only once
  • Use the smallest amount of the work necessary for your purpose and consider the “short excerpt” amounts outlined above. If you want to explore further, please see the CMEC Fair Dealing Guidelines and CAUT Guidelines for Use of Copyrighted Material
  • Make the content accessible for the smallest amount of time possible to a narrow audience in a password-protected learning management system (e.g., VIULearn)
  • Remove content as soon as it is no longer needed
  • Document all the materials used under fair dealing to be consistent and to have a record of your decision-making process in case of a challenge
  • Include a copyright notice, so that users understand the material may be copyrighted and should not be further distributed or posted online

Sample copyright notice for fair dealing material

If you are using a short excerpt of a copyright protected work, please add the following copyright notice so that users are aware of their responsibilities in protecting that work:

This copy is made solely for your personal use for research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, or review only. Further reproduction, fixation, distribution, transmission, dissemination, communication, or any other uses, may be an infringement of copyright if done without securing the permission of the copyright owner. You may not distribute, email, or otherwise communicate these materials to any other person.


Do you have questions? Want to learn more? Contact the Copyright Office

The information on this website is provided as guidance for educational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. 

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