Copyright infringement and fair dealing

Region: Ontario Answer # 324

Copyright infringement occurs when someone copies work, or performs or displays a work in public, without the permission of the owner. One common example of copyright infringement is plagiarism, which involves copying someone else’s work and claiming that it is your own. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office will not prevent other people from infringing your copyright. It is up to the owner of the copyright to ensure that no one else copies, publishes, or performs their work. Copyright laws are complicated. To get help, ask a lawyer now.

Copyright Modernization Act

Under the Copyright Modernization Act, a law created in 2012 to amend the Copyright Act, it is illegal to:

  • Unlock digital protections, even if it’s for legal reasons like education.
  • Create, import, or sell tools primarily meant to unlock digital protections

Also under the Act, internet service providers won’t be held responsible for copyright infringement if they’re just helping to transmit, store, or host content. This does not apply:

  • If the provider knowingly supports a service mainly used for copyright infringement, and copyright infringement occurs as a result.
  • If the provider knows about a court ruling saying storing this content infringes an owner’s copyright.


Fair dealing – exceptions to copyright infringement

It may not be an infringement of copyright to quote or copy small parts of a work, if it is for private study, review, research, or criticism, or if it is a newspaper or broadcast summary. Using someone else’s work this way may be called “fair dealing”. There are exceptions to fair dealing under the Copyright Modernization Act that specifically include education, satire, and parody.


An educational institution, for education or training purposes, can:

  • reproduce work in order to display it (unless it is available for sale within a reasonable time and price in a format appropriate for training or education purposes),
  • perform a film or cinematographic work in the classroom, as long as such work is not an infringing copy and was legally obtained,
  • reproduce, communicate by telecommunication and perform for students, works that are available through the Internet, provided that the works are legitimately posted and that the source and author are attributed. Exceptions to this include: works protected by digital locks, where a clearly visible notice prohibiting such an act is posted on the work itself or the website, or where the educational institution knew or ought to have known that the work was illegally placed on the Internet in violation of the copyright owner’s rights.

Satire and parody

Parody and satire are not defined in the Act but are generally understood as mimicking a work using humor to comment on or criticize something. Parodies are commenting on the work itself, whereas satires are commenting on something else in the world and using that work as a springboard.

Other exceptions to copyright infringement

Other exceptions to copyright infringement exist as well. For example, under certain conditions the performance of a copyrighted work by a religious organization, school, museum, archive or charitable body is not an infringement. People with “perceptual” disabilities may also make a copy of works (except movies) and convert them into a new format that can be used for their own private purposes.

Personal use exceptions

Section 29 of the new law, allows for three new fair dealing exceptions:

1.  Non-commercial user-generated content: This exception, sometimes called the mash-up, allows a consumer the right to use, for non-commercial purposes, a published work to create a new work, provided that the source and author are identified, that the original work or the copy was legally obtained, and that there is no substantial adverse effect on the exploitation of the original work. For example, someone could take parts of a video or movie and combine them together to create a new video.

2.  Copy a protected work from one device to another: This allows a consumer, for private purposes, to copy any work if the source copy was legally obtained. For example, if someone buys a song from iTunes, they can download in onto their computer and then transfer it to their iPod without infringing copyright laws.

3.  Record programs for later listening or viewing: Individuals are legally permitted to fix a communication signal, or reproduce a work, sound record or performance being broadcast in order to privately view the work at a later time. However, the signal must be obtained legally, only one recording must be made, the recording must be used for private use, and the recording must not be given away. This exception does not apply to works or sound recordings that are made available through an on-demand service, or to works protected by digital locks (a technological measure, such as encryption or digital signatures, used to restrict access to, or prevent the copying or playing of, CDs, DVDs, e-books, digital files and so on).


What to do if someone infringes your copyright

If someone infringes your copyright, you may want to take legal action. If the infringement is proven, the court can order them to stop using your copyright and to pay you compensation. If the infringement is very serious, criminal charges may be laid according to the Copyright Act. A summary conviction under the Act could bring a maximum fine of $25,000 and/or up to six months in jail; while a conviction by indictment could lead to a maximum fine of $1 million and/or up to five years in jail. Compensation for “statutory damages” is also available. This allows the copyright owner to recover $500 to $20,000 per work infringed without having to prove that any actual losses occurred.

Non-commercial use: In the case of a non-commercial infringement, the copyright holder may be awarded anywhere from $100 to a maximum of $5,000. A cap of $5,000 was placed on non-commercial infringements to ensure that Canadians will not face disproportionate penalties for minor infringements.

To register a copyright in Canada, refer to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. For information about intellectual property investigations, click here.

Get help

Copyright laws are complicated. If someone has copied your work without your permission, and you need legal advice or assistance, ask a lawyer now.

To conduct an investigation regarding intellectual property infringement, and for other investigation services, contact our preferred Investigators, MADPI GLOBAL .

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