Library:Copyright Resources/Why Should I Care

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About Copyright

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).

3 Reasons to Care About Copyright

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 1: If it doesn't have a © I can use it

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 2: I don't need to cite "ideas", just direct quotes

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 3: My supervisor didn't mention copyright, so I don't need to worry about it

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.

Myth 4: If I only use 10 seconds of a song in a promotional video for my department, I don't need permission

Myth: I'm working on a promotional video for my department that will be displayed on our website for incoming students and I would like to use few clips from Pink Floyd's song "Time." Someone told me that if the clip is under 30 seconds it is okay to use. Each one is about 10 seconds, so I don't need permission, right?

Magnifying-Glass.png Reality:

Using music or other media in promotional videos is a complex issue that can vary on a case by case basis. If you are considering the use of music or other media clips in a work that will be posted online, we recommend that you contact the Scholarly Communications & Copyright Office for clarification.

Alternatively, you may consider using Creative Commons-licensed music such as the sources listed on Creative Commons' Legal Music for Videos page.

Myth 5: If it is licensed through Creative Commons, I can use it however I want

Myth : I'm working on my department website using UBC's CMS on Wordpress and I would like to find some photos to use. I found relevant photos on Flickr using the Creative Commons search. As long as they are Creative Commons images, I can just use them however I want, right?

Magnifying-Glass.png Reality:

Some copyright holders use a Creative Commons license to allow their copyright work to be reused and shared. However, a Creative Commons license does not mean that a work is not copyrighted and that it can be used however you want. There are many different Creative Commons licenses, and each allows the work to be shared and reused in different ways, with different requirements and conditions that must be followed.

All Creative Commons licenses require attribution for the image creator. Refer to UBC's Image Citation Guide for more information about citing Creative Commons images.

Additional conditions of a Creative Commons license may:

  • prohibit commercial use of the work;
  • prohibit modifications of the original work;
  • and, if modifications are allowed, require modified works to be released under the same license.

When a work has a Creative Commons license, the license usually has a link to a license page - such as with the second example in the Image Citation Guide. The license page lists the specific conditions for that work and will help others use it in the way the creator intended. Be sure to read the license conditions of any Creative Commons work that you use.

Applying a Creative Commons license to your work is a great way to allow sharing and reuse of your work as well.

Find an image licensed for re-use: CC Search, UBC's Image Sources Guide.

Myth 6: I can show a movie on campus for an event, as long as it's for educational purposes

Myth: I'm planning an event on campus where we will watch the latest James Bond movie and have a discussion afterwards. This is for educational purposes, so it's OK, right?

Magnifying-Glass.png Reality:

If you plan to show a commercial film on a UBC campus for educational or training purposes, some restrictions do apply. If you plan to show a commercial film on UBC campus not for educational or training purposes, then it may still be covered under one of UBC’s special institutional Feature Film Licences. In either case, please see UBC's Instructor FAQ 2.6 for more information.

Myth 7: I can share articles via email with a colleague from another university

Myth: My colleague from another university needs access to an article that we own at UBC. It's okay for me to send a pdf of the article along to a friend, right?

Magnifying-Glass.png Reality:

UBC Library negotiates licenses (contractual agreements) to our electronic resources that are limited to use by current faculty, staff and students. Sharing these licensed resources with someone outside of the UBC community is considered a violation of contractual agreements, and any violations of our license terms can result in the loss of access to that resources for the entire UBC community. If a colleague from another university would like access to UBC resources, encourage them to go their university library for help in getting the articles.