This resource guide has information on copyright, using images, and sharing articles.

What is Fair Dealing?

Under the fair dealing provisions of sections 29, 29.1 and 29.2 of the Copyright Act, copying for the purposes of research, private study, education, parody or satire, criticism, review, or news reporting does not infringe copyright, as long as the way you use the work is 'fair'. These provisions are technologically neutral.

What the Law Means to You

Most published items are covered under copyright. There are some exceptions/user rights in Canadian copyright law which allow limited use of short excerpts of copyrighted materials without getting permission. Fair Dealing is one of those exceptions.

The Copyright Act does not specify what is 'fair' and what is not. Interpretation has been determined by rulings in Canadian courts of law. Before applying this exception to your use of a copyright protected resource, you must consider six factors that determine if your use is “Fair”:

  1. The purpose: you can make a copy for personal research, private study, education, criticism, review or news reporting.
  2. The character: A single copy is likely more fair than making multiple copies. Educational use may be considered more fair if limited to an in-person class or a password protected learning platform. 
  3. The amount: you may be able to copy one chapter from a book, one article from a periodical, an entire artistic work (e.g. photograph, diagram, drawing) from a copyright-protected work containing other artistic works (e.g. a coffee table book), or up to 10% of a copyright protected work. 
  4. The nature of the work: you may need special permission if the work is unpublished or confidential.
  5. Available alternatives: look for alternatives in the public domain or available under a Creative Commons license.
  6. Effect of the dealing: the author should be the only one to profit from the work.

What not to do:

  • Do not sell copies.
  • Do not post in publicly accessible place (i.e. a website, a subject guide, a poster in a waiting room).
  • Do not break technological protection measures / digital locks.(e.g. watermarks on images).
  • Do not share works that are behind a paywall or available under a subscription without first checking the terms of use.
  • Do not send PDFs of articles to others (see Sharing Articles & Journal Clubs).
  • Do not share materials you find on the Internet if the terms of use prohibit uses that might otherwise fall under Fair Dealing.

Applying fair dealing or other copyright exceptions to your use of a copyright protected work almost always involves a risk assessment.

How do I know what is "fair"?

We recommend that you use this Fair Dealing Decision Tree created by the University of Ottawa to help you determine if your use is 'fair'.