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Ideas and facts *- Copyright does not apply ideas or facts (“data”) in themselves, but only to particular expressions of such.  For example, while an author may hold the copyright for her novel, it would not be an infringement of copyright to, say, write and publish a descriptive synopsis of the novel or to “borrow” a plot device from the novel in one’s own writing, especially if no passages from the novel itself were reproduced. As well, it would generally be acceptable to take scientific data from a graph and present them in a table in one’s own work.


The public domain * – Works that have fallen out of copyright because of their age, where applicable, in relation to the death date (known or estimated) of the author, are considered to be in the public domain, so no longer under copyright.  In Canada, in general, works enter the public domain 50 years after the death of their author.  Where the author is a government or corporation, content enters the public domain 50 years after its creation.  This “term of copyright” is longer for sound recordings and cinematic works; term of copyright for various media and authorship situations is set out in Sections 6-12 in the Copyright Act.   Users must be careful in their use of content that might seem to be in the public domain, but may not be, in fact.  For example, while the works of Charles Dickens are by now in the public domain, the use of a particular edition or translation of his works, if relatively recent, may well be under copyright. 


Insubstantial copying * – The Copyright Board found in May 2015 that the copying of 1-2 pages of a longer work, not constituting more than 2.5% of the whole work (and not from a book of short works, such as poems), would normally be “insubstantial,” so not requiring permission of a copyright holder.  See Section X (ten) of the May 2015 Copyright Board decision.


* It should be noted that, even though copyright may not apply, in a university setting, use of “borrowed” facts and ideas, works in the public domain and “insubstantial” parts of works will normally still require appropriate attribution in the interest of academic integrity.  Any unattributed use of the text or ideas of others might be plagiarism even if it is not a breach of copyright.