Copyright Qs & As: Digital Copyright Issues

10.1 Question: Do you need permission to provide a hyper link in a Web site to a page in another Web site?

Answer: There is no Canadian or U.S. case law that specifically answers this question. There have been out-of-court settlements which suggest that if you hyperlink to a home page, then permission is not necessary, and if you link to an internal page in a Web site then permission is necessary. As such, it is a risk management decision your enterprise must make, and the decision may vary depending on the type of site to which you are linking. (2008-1)

10.2 Question: Can a library scan an article from a journal that it has in print format in its collection?

Answer: Owning a print article does not mean that you own the copyright/reproduction rights in that article. If you want to digitize an article in your possession, you need to obtain permission from the rights holder of the article before digitizing it. If you are obtaining permission to digitize the article, you may at the same time, ask for additional permissions such as the right to post the article on your intranet or circulate it internally in PDF. (2009-2)

10.3 Question: Is it legal to add a watermark to a digital image that you legally acquired from a photographer?

Answer: This is likely not a violation of copyright. In an extreme case, a photographer or other copyright owner may claim that it violates their moral rights and harms their reputation — however unlikely too since the purpose of the watermark is to protect copyright. You can always ask the copyright owner before placing the watermark on the image. (2010-4)

10.4 Question: My organization purchased an electronic version of a journal article for purposes of research by one of our employees. May we store this electronic article on our Intranet or on the library’s server?

Answer: You should check the purchase order or license that accompanied the article. Were there certain rights and conditions placed on the article when you purchased it? What uses are permissible? If the PO or the license is silent on this issue, then you must obtain permission to use the article in any way in which it will be reproduced or distributed, other (presumably) than for the personal use of the researcher who ordered it. (2009-4)

10.5 Question: I have published an e-book and am distributing it for free, however, I do not want others to redistribute it without my permission. How can I do this?

Answer: One option is to use technology (some sort of digital rights management) to prevent redistribution of your electronic book. Another option is to have your readers sign a license agreement that they will not further distribute the book. Another option is to have copyright information/notices in your book to educate and warn others that any copying or sharing of it is not permitted without your consent. A combination of some of the above may work too. (2010-1)

10.6 Question: I am creating a digital paper collection of articles from personal computers in my office.  The collection will contain articles from the internet, articles from licensed databases and digitized articles.  Do I need permission to create a SharePoint library with all of these articles?

Answer:  You need to examine each article or perhaps set of articles on its own. The articles from the internet – are they in the public domain? If not, do the websites state that they may be used for free or just for personal or noncommercial purposes? The licensed articles – what does your license agreement state? Are you allowed to accumulate individual articles or just use individual articles for specific purposes?  For the digitized articles, did you obtain permission to digitize the articles?  If so, does this permission extend to collecting the paper in a digital library? (2011-4)


  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Eva, like many situations in copyright, it depends on the circumstances. Are you merely reading from the textbook? In that case you will need permission to create your video tutorial. If you are creating original content based on ideas in the texbook, then permission is not required.

  2. Eva says:

    Is it illegal for me to create video tutorials for a foreign language textbook? I would like to video record myself going through each page of the book explaining how to do each exercise. I would like to sell this series of tutorials. I read online that it’s ok, because I am creating a new product, in a different media.

  3. Lesley says:

    Hi Linda, it depends on what country you are based. In many countries if you merely provide a link rather than reproduce content, then you do not require permission. In some countries, the “safer” legal approach is to provide the link to a home page rather than to an internal page on a site. Some people suggest that it is proper netiquette to ask for permission to link where others like myself would find replying to that question an unnecessary use of my time!

  4. Linda says:

    I am creating (then selling online) an Online Course that includes (only title or name) the links to other websites that have helpful information (as research) for the topic of that module. Do I require permission from those other people’s links? Example: The Topic is about “Determine the Cost of Overhead”. The link is to another person’s blog that has a great article on how to calculate ‘Overhead Costs’.
    It is very difficult to find the answer to this question on the internet.
    Thank you.

  5. Lesley says:

    Hi again Julie, keep in mind that if your library is buying videos from a store that you do not have public performance rights in the videos, so get permission if you show a video in your library.

Comments are now closed for this article.

About | Contact