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 reporting. In 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:
- Strengthening Canadian User Rights through Shared Understanding: Adapting the Codes of Best Practices in Fair Use for Canada (CARL, 2021)
- FairDealingDecisionTool.ca (Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, 2020)
- Position Statement on Fair Dealing (Canadian Federation of Library Associations, 2018)
- Fair Dealing Decision Tool for K-12 teachers (Council of Ministers of Education, 2018)
- Fair Copyright website and campaign (Canadian Association of University Teachers, 2018)
- Selection of posts published for Fair Use/Fair Dealing Week 2018 (CARL E-lert, 2018)
- Fair Dealing in Canada Myths and Facts (CARL, 2017)
- CARL Statement on Fair Dealing and Copyright (CARL, 2016)
- The Fight for Fair Copyright Returns: Canadian Government Launches Major Copyright Review (M. Geist, 2017)
- How Canadian Education Really Hurts Creators (M. Nair, 2017)
- Copyright: Protecting Fair Dealing (R. Proulx, Universities Canada/Policy Options, 2017)
- We shouldn’t be paying more for Canadian content (G. Beasley, Hill Times, 2017)
- Dynamic Fair Dealing (ed. R. J. Coombe, D. Wershler, & M. Zeilinger, U. of T. Press, 2014)
Relevant Supreme Court Decisions:
York University v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright),  2021 SCC 32 – see decision
Alberta (Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright),  2 S.C.R. 345, 2012 SCC 37 – see decision
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada v. Bell Canada,  2 S.C.R. 326, 2012 SCC 36 – see decision
CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada,  1 S.C.R. 339, 2004 SCC 13 – see decision
Théberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain inc.,  2 S.C.R. 336, 2002 SCC 34 – see decision