Copyright:Official Documents/FAQs/Staff

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3.1 Are there any databases of materials that I can use for free without worrying about copyright?

Generally, no.

However, see the Instructor FAQ to determine how copyrighted materials can be used for educational or training purposes in the classroom.

Also, works that are made available under a Creative Commons license are generally available for free, subject to certain conditions specified in the licence, such as non-commercial use only and acknowledgment of the author. It is important to consider whether your use of Creative Commons materials complies with the terms of the license—in particular, just because UBC is a non-profit entity, does not mean that all of the activities of its faculty and staff are "non-commercial".

Visit the Creative Commons website for more information or check out their content directories which list audio, video, image and text materials available under Creative Commons licensing. Also see our Creative Commons Guide for additional information, and see our Image Sources Guide for help with finding Creative Commons images in particular.

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3.2 Who owns the copyright in the works I create at UBC?

Generally, the creator owns copyright unless it has been assigned to another entity, such as a publisher or other person. If the work was created in the course of employment, the employer will own the copyright. UBC faculty own copyright in their own works, including course material and lectures, in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the UBC Faculty Association. For non-faculty staff, the University retains copyright in works created during the course of employment.

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3.3 Can I use fair dealing to make copies of works related to my job?

This question is answered in detail in section 6 of Fair Dealing in Practice.

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3.4 Can I post copyrighted images and other content on UBC websites?

Please see our staff Website Administration page for information about the difference between posting on public UBC websites vs. UBC learning management systems, using images on public UBC websites, and linking and embedding content on public UBC websites.

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3.5 Can I play music at UBC events?

The Copyright Act allows you to play a sound recording or live radio broadcasts in class as long as it is for educational or training purposes, not for profit, on UBC premises and before an audience consisting primarily of students, faculty or any person who is directly responsible for setting a curriculum for UBC. However, if you want to use music for non-educational purposes, for example, for background music at a conference or in an athletic facility, a licence must be obtained from the copyright collective SOCAN.

For more information on this, see our Information about SOCAN and Re:Sound Fees.

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3.6 Can I show films in class or at UBC events?

The Copyright Act permits instructors to perform any film or other cinematographic work in the classroom, as long as the work is not an infringing copy and was legally obtained. Instructors can also screen films outside of the classroom, provided that the screening is on campus, that the purpose is for education or training, and that the audience consists mainly of students, faculty, or any person who is directly responsible for setting a curriculum for UBC.

If you wish to show a film in a public space on campus, it may be possible to show the film if it is included within one of UBC’s special institutional Feature Film PPR Licences, which allow thousands of feature films to be shown in public spaces on campus for entertainment purposes. Any legal copy of a feature film covered by a Licence can be shown at UBC, including videos/DVDs from a library, video store, or personal collection. To determine if a feature film is covered by a Licence, search the online catalogues of the following two film distributors:

Audio-Cine: www.acf-film.com

Criterion Pictures: www.criterionpic.com

Please note that, in order to qualify for use pursuant to a Licence, a film screening must be free to attend, and the audience must consist primarily of current UBC faculty, staff, or students. If you have questions about whether the Licence would apply to a particular event, please contact us.

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3.7 Can I use copyrighted materials for staff training?

Under the Fair Dealing Requirements, UBC faculty and staff may copy and distribute a Short Excerpt if the purpose of the copying is directly tied to the education of students.

The following examples of administrative copying would not fall within UBC’s Fair Dealing Requirements:

  • the making of a copy of the Short Excerpt for the purpose of training administrative staff; and
  • copying the Short Excerpt and providing the copies to members of the board of governors or to members of a faculty or department committee for governance or general administrative purposes relating to the operation of the university.

It should be noted that the fair dealing exception may apply to these instances of copying, but a separate fair dealing analysis must be undertaken to ensure compliance with the Copyright Act. For assistance with this analysis, please contact us. If fair dealing is not available, compliance with the Copyright Act may be achieved by utilizing one of UBC’s electronic subscription licenses or obtaining permission from the copyright holder directly.

If all you need is images to supplement a presentation, you also have the option of finding images that have been liberally licensed for reuse or that are in the public domain (which means the copyright has expired or been waived by the copyright holder). Images that have been licensed under a Creative Commons license, for example, have been made available for reuse without seeking permission.


There are some excellent resources for finding these types of images online, including:

  • Wikimedia Commons: A database of nearly 20 million freely usable image, sound, and video files. To find any specific instructions for reusing or attributing images, check the “licensing” section on the image page.
  • Flickr Commons: A wonderful collection of public domain images from a variety of libraries, archives, and museums, including the Library of Congress, NASA, the Getty Research Institute, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, and many more.
  • Flickr Creative Commons Search: You can also use Flickr’s Advanced Search screen to locate user-added images that have been Creative Commons licensed. Use the drop down menu labeled "Any License" and select the creative commons license you would like to search under. Check the copyright information under “Additional Info” on an image page to locate any specific instructions for using the image.


For more image resources, have a look at our Image Sources Guide. For information on how to attribute Creative Commons-licensed images, see our Image Citation Guide. And of course, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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3.8 How can I get more information about copyright?

Key UBC copyright resources are posted on this website. See in particular:

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3.9 Who do I talk to at UBC if I have a copyright question?

See these pages listing UBC Vancouver copyright contacts and UBC Okanagan copyright contacts (Click on Okanagan Contacts tab).

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