A Lesson in Canadian Copyright

My teenage daughter received an interesting assignment last month.  She was asked to create her own blog.   She chose to create a visual blog.  As she was blatantly copying images from the internet, we had one of those “you don’t know anything” mother-daughter conversations.  Regardless, it was one of those teachable moments I couldn’t pass up.  I am currently learning a little more about Canadian copyright law this week and the implications of Bill C-11 on education.  “Awareness of copyright is important because you are educating the copyright owners and users of tomorrow.” (p. 20, CMEC, 2012)  Our students are future creators and users of digital content.  Ignorance is not a permissible excuse; therefore education regarding copyright is essential.  “As a faculty member, your best defense is to set a clear policy against copyright infringement in your classroom.” (p. 6, Nenych, 2011)

Acceptable use of content meets both tests for Fair Dealing.  (Fair Dealing Guidelines, 2012)  My daughter’s use of photos meets the first test; for educational purposes.  The second test is that it must be ‘fair’.  Some of the photos she chose fail this second test.  They are copyright protected and she is using them to create her own work.  The knowledge she was missing was how to use the filters provided in such programs as Google, Microsoft, and Flickr.   Clearly, there is a need for all citizens to acquire such skills when using content found on the Internet.

My second concern with my daughter’s assignment is the absence of references.  “Copying or communicating short excerpts from a copyright-protected work under these Fair Dealing Guidelines for the purpose of news reporting, criticism or review should mention the source and, if given in the source, the name of the author or creator of the work.”  (p. 1, Fair Dealings Guidelines, 2012)  When is an appropriate time to be teaching referencing?  If economics is a driving force, the answer then is Kindergarten.  “If the guidelines are incorporated into school authorities’ procedures and communicated to staff and students accordingly, effective January 1, 2013, it is no longer necessary for authorities to continue to pay copyright royalties to Access Copyright under the current tariff, a savings of $5.16 per FTE per year.” (Copy of Letter from Deputy Minister, December 2012)  If you scoff at the suggestion of this young age, you will be as surprised as I was when an opportunity to illustrate how to cite a reference arose in my grade one class.  A student copied a fact from a book to add to her work.  It was a natural opening to address the mentioning of the source of her quote.  Now, it wasn’t in A.P.A. format.  I thought we’d take it one step at a time.


CMEC (2012). Copyright matters. Retrieved from:



Used with my daughter’s permission

CMEC (2012).  Fair Dealing Guidelines.  Retrieved from:  http://www.cmec.ca/397/Programs-and-Initiatives/Copyright/Fair-Dealing-Guidelines/index.html

Nenych, L. A. (2011). Managing the legal risks of high-tech classrooms. Contemporary Issues In Education Research4(3), 1-7.


4 thoughts on “A Lesson in Canadian Copyright

  1. You bring up many good points in this post. I love your daughter’s idea of a visual blog. Unless students are explicitly directed to use only their own work in their blog posts, should not the first lesson in blog creation then be about copyright? Could we not keep it as simple as, if you use someone else’s work, you have to have permission to do it, and you have to credit them?
    Your point about teaching this starting in kindergarten is an important one. If we begin the teaching of copyright in kindergarten, then perhaps students, rather than teachers would initiate the questions around copyright. Perhaps these questions would not be about whether to respect copyright (the why), but how to properly cite someone else’s work (the how).
    My students in grade four totally understand the idea of not using another person’s work without permission in a classroom context. They have not made the connection to digital work on the internet. If we start the conversation about intellectual property in a digital context in kindergarten, perhaps by the time students reach high school, copyright would be a nonissue.

    • Sandra,
      Above you state, “If we start the conversation about intellectual property in a digital context in kindergarten, perhaps by the time students reach high school, copyright would be a nonissue”. If conversations and embedded opportunities are absent all trhough K-12 education, will the student recall the lesson of acceptable use when they are in high school? college?

  2. Hi Debbie,
    It is interesting the way you have broken down your daughter’s task involving copyright issue into two steps. As you point out, “the knowledge as to how to use filters was largely missing.” Her intentionality was not the question and of course the task was only for educational purpose. With so many resources at hand, awareness is imperative and is expected. But why is it that it is not the top priority? If schools can invest time and energy to create assignment of such high degree of excitement then why it is the copyright laws are not always reminded. We are still at the stage where they constantly get modified. Nenych (2011, p. 2) reminds us that, “What is needed is a clear set of laws and simple procedures that will allow students to benefit from the vast range of materials available,… If the proper balance is found, creators and users will both be able to exploit the potential of the Internet.”
    In my understanding, educators need to convey these guidelines in the simplest possible manner to their learners. From an optimist view, this may be regarded as an opportune time to inculcate these guidelines and more importantly their significance for life-long learning.
    Nenych, L. A. (2011). Managing the legal risks of high-tech classrooms. Contemporary Issues In Education Research, 4(3), 1-7.

  3. Debbie, I think our daughters are very much alike – maybe it is the age…

    It’s interesting, when I think about what she knows (gr 7) about copyright and fair dealing rules, I think there has been very little teaching in her school life thus far. I know both she and my son know you can’t copy word for word while researching, but I realize she has not been taught about images at all (either that or she just doesn’t follow that). Recently she was completing an imovie about 2 different animals form different biomes and all of the images included in her project were just googled and inserted. I obviously have some work to do with her around this issue for her next project – I will also make sure that as a learning leader in the school, that I speak to the teachers to make sure they are beginning (or continuing) to work with students to understand what they can and cannot copy and paste into their work.

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