Copyright for TSVIs

Due to our regular work with alternate format materials, it is important for teachers of students with visual impairments to understand the use of copyrighted material under the federal Copyright Act. At this time, we know that teachers may be looking for information on how to responsibly share learning content online, and so we wanted to create a blog post that summarizes the federal guidance on the use of copyright protected materials in education settings.

It’s important to understand the limitations and teachers’ obligations when using copyrighted material. If a teacher infringes on copyright, the teacher, school, and school district can be held responsible (Council of Ministers of Education Canada, 2016).

The guidelines that outline how teachers can use copyrighted material are called the Fair Dealing Guidelines. These guidelines outline how short excerpts of copyrighted material may be used. Permission to use a copyrighted work needs to be sought if a teacher or other person wishes to use more than a short excerpt of a work. These guidelines apply equally to digital materials as to print materials.

The Fair Dealing Guidelines state that teachers and staff members in non-profit educational institutions may use short excerpts from copyrighted material without having to seek permission:

  • Copy or communicate short excerpts for the purpose of news reporting, criticism, or review
  • Must mention the source of the excerpt as well as the author
  • May provide a single copy of an excerpt to students enrolled in a class:
    • As a handout
    • On a password-protected learning or content management system,
    • As part of a course pack (Council of Ministers of Education Canada, 2016)

The definition of “short excerpt” includes:

  • Up to 10% of a copyrighted work including a book, music score, sound recording, or audiovisual work
  • A single chapter from a book
  • A single article from a periodical
  • An entire artistic work (such as a painting, drawing, diagram, or photograph) from a work containing artistic works
  • An entire newspaper article or page
  • An entire music score or poem from a copyrighted work containing music scores and poems
  • An entry from an encyclopedia, dictionary, bibliography, or similar reference work (Council of Ministers of Education Canada, 2016)

Teachers may also use for educational purposes publicly available internet materials that are not protected by a password, encryption, or other security measures without requesting permission (Council of Ministers of Education Canada, 2016).

The Council of Ministers of Education Canada (CEMC) has created a tool to help students and teachers determine if their use of copyrighted material falls within the Fair Dealing Guidelines. If not, an evaluation will need to be made to determine if permission needs to be requested or payment made (Council of Ministers of Education Canada, 2016).

Additional information about copyright law for teachers can be found in the Copyright Matters! booklet.


Council of Ministers of Education Canada. (September, 2016). Copyright, Fair Dealing, and the Classroom: What Teachers Can and Cannot Do

About the author

Jen Jesso

I have worked in various roles in the field of visual impairment since 2007. In addition to working as a teacher of students with visual impairments, I recently completed coursework to become an orientation and mobility specialist. I have been fortunate to work with the fantastic team at PRCVI since 2014.

I enjoy many aspects of my role at PRCVI, but highlights include working with teachers of students with visual impairments and their students on outreach visits and working on PRCVI initiatives and projects.

Outside of work, my interests include reading, computer programming, swimming, and spending time with friends and family.

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