Copyright is the legal protection of literary, dramatic, artistic, and musical works, sound recordings, performances, and communications signals. Copyright provides creators with the legal right to be paid for — and to control the use of — their creations.

In Canada, copyright is protected through the federal government's Copyright Act.

Since 1999, the CMEC Copyright Consortium has been working to advance the views of its members on copyright issues related to education. The consortium believes that the federal Copyright Act must balance two equally important sets of rights:

  • the rights of creators to control the use of their works and to receive compensation for such use; and
  • the rights of the education community to have fair access to created works.

The CMEC Copyright Consortium is composed of the ministers of education of the provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec.

Canada's copyright laws have recently changed

Canada's copyright law has become clearer and easier for teachers and students to follow. As a result of federal copyright legislation passed by the House of Commons in June 2012 and a Supreme Court decision brought down in July 2012, new rules have been set for the educational use of both publicly available and copyright‑protected materials.

The federal copyright law updates Canada's copyright regime and establishes a clearer legal framework for the digital age. In particular, a new amendment on the educational use of the Internet allows students and teachers to use publicly available Internet materials for their learning and educational pursuits without violating copyright.

The July 2012 Supreme Court decision clarifies what fair dealing means. According to the decision, teachers in Canada may make copies of short excerpts of a copyright-protected work for students in their classes without having to ask for copyright permission or pay copyright royalties.

Practical information on Canada's new copyright law

CMEC has revised its long-standing publication, Copyright Matters!, to provide the education community ― teachers, students, parents, and administrators ― with user‑friendly information on copyright law.

Copyright Matters! covers items from the Canadian Copyright Act and its regulations, contractual and tariff arrangements with copyright collectives, and court decisions. The publication is a starting point in increasing awareness of your rights and obligations in selecting and using copyright-protected materials for teaching and learning.

Copyright Matters! is available on-line. If you would prefer a printed copy, please contact us.

CMEC has also developed and published Fair Dealing Guidelines to help teachers and school administrators understand how to use copyright-protected works appropriately.

The fair dealing provision in the Copyright Act permits use of a copyright-protected work without permission from the copyright owner or the payment of copyright royalties. These guidelines apply to non-profit K─12 schools and postsecondary education institutions and provide reasonable safeguards for the owners of copyright-protected works in accordance with the Copyright Act and Supreme Court decisions.

If you are copying materials, know your limits by consulting the Fair Dealing Guidelines.

Need more information? We've prepared a FAQ on Canada's new copyright law and recent Supreme Court decisions and their implications for the education community.