Content and Copyright Considerations in Distance Learning

The move to distance learning has certainly had some pitfalls. On top of all of the programming changes and logistical considerations, we’re hearing horror stories of the inappropriate use of digital tools and teachers unintentionally violating copyright laws.  It is crucial for teachers to make themselves aware of the privacy and security guidelines for their school board while also being aware of Fair Dealing and Copyright laws for online content.  Here is some food for thought, and a few tools and resources that may be helpful for teachers while creating and linking to online content.

Posting YouTube Videos

YouTube videos may be used for educational purposes in Canada so long as the creator and the source of the video is credited.  However, you might want to consider not posting a direct link to the YouTube video on your learning platform.  This link will take the students to the YouTube channel and the student may then freely search other content.  Maybe it is just me, but I’ve experienced the liquor advertisement pop up while watching a video in my classroom or the next video automatically plays and the content is not suitable for students. Teachers may want to try using online tools such as ViewPure or Safesharetv before copying the link into a learning platform.  These tools filter out advertisement and connects only the the video itself.

Reading Books Online to Students

A number of Canadian Publishers have opened up access to Educators to read published works online.  There are guidelines that an Educator must follow in order to do post an online story time.  For a list of participating publishers and more information on how to respect copyright for Canadian authors visit access copyright.  Scholastic Canada has also extended access to Educators to read published works online. The instructions on how to use Scholastic works is a little different.  Visit the Scholastic Read Aloud portion on the Scholastic Canada website in order to follow their rules and regulations.

FairDealing and Copyright

There are copyright laws specific to Education.  If you want to make sure that you can use something without violating copyright laws you can use the Fair Dealing Decision Tool.  Teachers can also refer to the Copyright Matters Document.

Privacy Policies and Statement

At the bottom of every home page for an educational digital tools you will find a link to their privacy policy or statement. I highly recommend reading what you are signing up for as a teacher when you click on a new Educational digital tool. Be aware of what data is being collected, where it is being stored and which third parties are attached to the company and make an informed decision for yourself.  Be proactive and check with someone in the Instructional Technology department at your school board to ensure that you are following recommendations before asking students and parents to sign up for a digital tool.  It is a lot for teachers to think about while at the same time just trying to get a handle on teaching in the midst of a pandemic. There is a big learning curve for everyone. Try to continue to go slowly. The move to distance learning is helping Educators truly understand the importance of digital citizenship.

The Basics of Understanding Copyright in Canada

Creative Works are Protected Under Canadian Law

When protecting creations such as writing, paintings, and even computer programs, regardless of value, Canadian law protects all creative works, under the Copyright Act. Creators of original work have rights that are protected.

“Simply put, the Act prohibits others from copying your work without your permission. Its purpose is to protect copyright owners while promoting creativity and the orderly exchange of ideas” (Government of Canada, 2018).

What is Copyright

Copyright is defined in the simplest terms, “copyright” means “the right to copy.” “In general, copyright means the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form. It includes the right to perform the work or any substantial part of it or, in the case of a lecture, to deliver it. If the work is unpublished, copyright includes the right to publish the work or any substantial part of it” (Government of Canada, 2018).

“People occasionally confuse copyrights with patents, trademarks, industrial designs and integrated circuit topographies. Like copyright, these others are rights granted for intellectual creativity and are forms of IP”(Government of Canada, 2018).

Important differences:

  • “Copyright provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and other subject-matter known as performer’s performances, sound recordings and communication signals.
  • Patents cover new and useful inventions (product, composition, machine, process) or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.
  • Trademarks may be one or a combination of words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others” (Government of Canada, 2018).

Copyright protects all original “literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works provided the conditions set out in the Copyright Act have been met. Each of these general categories covers a wide range of creations, including:

  • literary works such as books, pamphlets, computer programs and other works consisting of text
  • dramatic works such as motion picture films, plays, screenplays and scripts
  • musical works such as compositions with or without words
  • artistic works such as paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures and plans” (Government of Canada, 2018).

The Conditions for Copyright


“Copyright applies to every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work where the author was at the date of the making of the work a citizen or subject of, or a person ordinarily resident in, Canada or some other treaty country. (A treaty country is defined as a Berne Convention country, a Universal Copyright Convention country or a World Trade Organization [WTO] member.)” (Government of Canada, 2018).

Benefits of registration

“The Copyright Act states that a certificate of registration of copyright is evidence that copyright exists and that the person registered is the owner of the copyright. However, the Copyright Office is not responsible for policing or checking on registered works and how people use them. It also cannot guarantee that the legitimacy of ownership or the originality of a work will never be questioned” (Government of Canada, 2018).

A lifetime of protection

“Generally, copyright lasts for the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and for 50 years following the end of that calendar year. Therefore, protection will expire on December 31 of the 50th year after the author dies” (Government of Canada, 2018).

The difference between copyright infringement and plagiarism.

“Copyright infringement is simply any infringement up on the rights of a copyright holder. Copyright law gives a copyright holder (usually the creator of the work) a set of rights that they and they alone can exploit legally (save for exceptions such as fair use)” (Bailey, 2013). Those include:

  • The right to reproduce/copy a work.
  • The right to create version of a work based upon another work.
  • The right to distribute copies of a work to the public.
  • The right to publicly display or perform a work.

“This means a wide variety of activities can be copyright infringing including performing a copyrighted play without permission, writing an unauthorized sequel to a work or simply making copies of the work” (Bailey, 2013).

Basically, copyright infringement, under the law, covers many unlawful activities that violate the rights of copyright holders. Copyright infringement is constructed under law as plagiarism is constructed under ethics. Plagiarism is essentially taking someone else’s work and presenting it as your own.

“The definition of ‘work’ can include a variety of things including ideas, words, images, etc. Anything that is seen as an unethical and unattributed use of another’s original creation can be defined as plagiarism” (Bailey, 2013).

Teachers are held to higher standards as teaching is a public profession

As teachers, we are held to higher standards as “teaching is a public profession” and that Canada’s Supreme Court rules that “off duty conduct, even when not directly related to students” is relevant to their [the teachers’] ability to teach. The Education Act Section 264 states that teachers are to have morality “to inculcate by precept and example respect for religion and the principles of Judaeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues” (Education Act 264 (1) (c)).

 So think before you use another person’s work and cite the work when you use it.

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston, PhD


Bailey, J. (October 7, 2013) The Difference Between Copyright Infringement and Plagiarism, Plagiarism Today, Downloaded from

Government of Canada. (1985). Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42). Copyright Board of Canada

Government of Canada. (September 26, 2018). A Guide to Copyright. Copyright Board of Canada

Government of Ontario. (October 17, 2018). Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, Government of Ontario, Downloaded from