About fair dealing

What is fair dealing?

Fair dealing is for everyone.  You probably make use of fair dealing every day without even realizing it, whether emailing a news article to a friend, using a clip from a song, using a copyrighted image on social media, or quoting passages from a book when writing an essay.  Activities such as these are not considered to be copyright infringement – in fact, the ability for users to make copies for specific purposes is an integral part of the Canadian Copyright Act.

The Canadian Copyright Act allows the use of material from a copyright protected work (literature, musical scores, audiovisual works, etc.) without permission when certain conditions are met. People can use fair dealing for  research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, and news reportingIn order to ensure your copying is fair, you need to consider several factors such as the amount you are copying, whether you are distributing the copy to others, and whether your copying might have a detrimental effect on potential sales of the original work.

What is the purpose of fair dealing?

Fair dealing recognizes that certain uses of copyright protected works are beneficial for society. By placing limits on instances where copyright owners can require payment, fair dealing leads innovation, to the creation of new works and new scholarship. The Supreme Court of Canada increasingly refers to copyright as providing a balance between the rights of users and of copyright owners.

Fair dealing has a large, positive impact, including for:

  • Educators and students at all levels,
  • Creative professionals (journalists, authors, filmmakers, musicians, etc.),
  • Individuals who want to use, copy or share portions of copyright protected works in their daily lives.

Useful Readings and Resources:

Relevant Supreme Court Decisions:

York University v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright), [2021] 2021 SCC 32 – see decision

Alberta (Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright), [2012] 2 S.C.R. 345, 2012 SCC 37 – see decision

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada v. Bell Canada, [2012] 2 S.C.R. 326, 2012 SCC 36 – see decision

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

Théberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain inc., [2002] 2 S.C.R. 336, 2002 SCC 34 – see decision