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Access to the Law Policy and Guidelines

Access to the Law Policy

The Law Society of Ontario, with the assistance of the resources of the Great Library, supports the administration of justice and the rule of law in the Province of Ontario. The Great Library's comprehensive catalogue of primary and secondary legal sources, in print and electronic media, is open to lawyers, articling/LPP students, the judiciary, and other authorized researchers. Single copies of library materials, required for the purposes of research, review, private study, and criticism, as well as use in court, tribunal, and government proceedings, may be provided to users of the Great Library.

This service supports users of the Great Library who require access to legal materials while respecting the copyright of the publishers of such materials, in keeping with the fair dealing provisions in sections 29 and 29.1 of the Canadian Copyright Act.

Guidelines to Access

  1. The Access to the Law service provides single copies for specific purposes, identified in advance to library staff
  2. The specific purposes are research, review, private study, and criticism, as well as use in court, tribunal, and government proceedings. Any doubt concerning the legitimacy of the request for these purposes will be referred to the Reference Librarian.
  3. The individual must identify him/herself and the purpose at the time of making the request. A request form will be completed by library staff, based on information provided by the requesting party.
  4. As to the amount of copying, discretion must be used. No copies will be made for any purpose other than that specifically set out on the request form. Ordinarily, requests for a copy of one case, one article or one statutory reference will be satisfied as a matter of routine. Requests for substantial copying from secondary sources (e.g., in excess of 5 per cent of the volume or more than two citations from one volume) will be referred to the Reference Librarian and may ultimately be refused.
  5. This service is provided on a not for profit basis. The fee charged for this service is intended to cover the costs of the Law Society.

Politique d'accès au droit

Les ressources de la Grande Bibliothèque permettent au Barreau de l'Ontario d'appuyer l'administration de la justice et la règle de droit dans la province de l'Ontario. L'accès au catalogue exhaustif des principaux ouvrages juridiques de la Grande Bibliothèque ainsi que de ses ouvrages secondaires, imprimés ou sur support électronique, est offert aux juristes, aux stagiaires, aux membres du système judiciaire et à d'autres recherchistes autorisés. On peut fournir aux usagers de la Grande Bibliothèque une copie des ouvrages de la bibliothèque requise pour mener des recherches, des analyses, des études privées et des critiques, ainsi que pour usage en cour, au tribunal et pour une procédure gouvernementale.

Ce service s'adresse aux usagers de la Grande Bibliothèque qui ont besoin d'accéder aux ouvrages juridiques et respecte le droit d'auteur des éditeurs de ces ouvrages et les dispositions 29 et 29.1 sur l'utilisation équitable de la Loi sur le droit d'auteur.

Lignes directrices

  1. Le service d'accès au droit fournit des copies à des fins admissibles, communiquées à l'avance au personnel de la bibliothèque.
  2. Les fins admissibles sont la recherche, les analyses, les études privées et la critique, ainsi que l'usage en cour, au tribunal et pour une procédure gouvernementale. On fera part de tout doute concernant la légitimité de ces fins à la ou au bibliothécaire de référence.
  3. La personne doit s'identifier et indiquer son dessein au moment où elle fait sa demande. Le personnel remplit un formulaire de demande à partir de renseignements donnés par la partie qui fait la demande.
  4. Le quantité de matériel copié demeure à la discrétion de l'usager. Aucune copie ne doit être faite à d'autres fins que celles précisées sur le formulaire. D'ordinaire, les demandes de copie d'une affaire, d'un article ou d'une référence à une loi seront traitées de façon routinière. Les grosses demandes de copie de sources secondaires (p. ex., plus de 5 % du volume ou plus que deux citations d'un volume) seront faites auprès du ou de la bibliothécaire de référence et peuvent être refusées.

Ce service est offert sans but lucratif. Les frais prélevés pour ce service visent à couvrir les coûts du Barreau.

Custom Copying Guidelines for Staff

These Guidelines are intended to assist staff to comply with the Library's Access to the Law Policy and should always be considered together with official Policy statement.


Only one copy of any item may be made.

Patrons must state the purpose of the request before the copy is made. Copies will not be made for any purpose other than research, private study or submission to a court or tribunal.

Copies must be stamped with the notice, "This copy to be used solely for the purposes of research, private study or submission to a court or tribunal and any use of the copy for other purposes may require the authorization of the copyright owner of the work in question."

Case Law

The library may copy an entire decision from a law report volume.

Refer requests for more than one case from the same volume to a reference librarian. Such requests are infrequent in practice. When they do arise, a parallel citation from an alternate series can often be substituted.


Follow the guidelines for Case Law above.


The library may copy a complete statute, bill or regulation.

The library may copy more than one statute or regulation from the same volume.

Both the federal and the Ontario government permit the copying of their respective legislation without payment and without obtaining prior permission.


Annotated statutes or regulations such as Martin's Criminal Code or the Annotated Canada Business Corporations Act are not treated as statutes. This type of publication is considered to be "textbook" material; see the restrictions set out below.

Periodical Articles/Serials

The library may copy an entire article from a law journal, review or newsletter.

Refer requests for more than one article from the same volume to the reference librarian.


According to the Access to the Law Policy, the maximum that may be copied is 5% of a textbook. But requests for 5% of a textbook are not automatically approved, and, in practice, many textbook requests are declined. The textbook category includes materials such as forms and precedents, dictionaries, words and phrases, annotated legislation and CLE publications (other than the LSO).

All requests for textbook materials must be approved by a reference librarian in writing. In approving requests, the reference librarian should consider such factors as:

  • the date of the publication
  • whether the work is still in print and available
  • whether 5% represents a disproportionate amount of original material from the book. For example, the book may be 500 pages in length, but contain only 200 pages of original commentary with 300 pages of reprinted statutes

An entire chapter may be copied if it falls into the above guidelines and does not exceed 5%.

Law Society of Ontario CLE publications may be copied in full by staff in Law Society libraries if they are no longer available for sale. However, in certain cases the authors of CLE publications may have retained the copyright. This would be indicated in the publication. In such cases, the general rule for textbooks would apply. One chapter or 5% may be copied if the publication is still in print.

Government Reports

Publications such as Law Reform Commission reports, departmental studies and inquiries by the federal or Ontario government may enjoy crown copyright. Copying up to 5% of these publications is permitted under our guidelines. However, since some of these publications go out of print very quickly and are unavailable for purchase when needed, copying more than 5% may be necessary in rare cases as approved by the reference librarian. Occasionally, the report itself may contain a statement granting permission to freely copy the work for discussion or other purposes.

Works With Expired Copyright

In Canada, under the Copyright Act, copyright generally extends 50 years after the death of the author. After this time period works fall into the public domain and may be freely copied.

If all efforts to determine the date of death of the author have been unsuccessful, one suggestion for estimating a reasonably "safe" date at which to assume copyright has expired is to use the date that represents 90 years from the date of creation of the work. This formula assumes that the author was 40 years old when the work was created and lived to be 80 years of age.

Under our system of copyright the operative law is that of the country in which the copying activity takes place. Therefore in Canada, Canadian law would apply when working with publications from other countries such as the United States.


When a publication is reprinted from a work in the public domain (that is, where copyright has expired), no new copyright term comes into existence for the new work. If a foreword or other new material is added, these parts may be subject to a new term of copyright. However, so long as the remainder of the reprinted publication has been compiled in the same way as the original publication and contains no new literary or artistic expression over and above the original publication, the reprinted material itself may be freely copied as being a work in which copyright has expired.

Printable version of Custom Copy Guidelines for Staff (pdf)

© Law Society of Ontario, Great Library 2004
  This document may be freely reproduced in full or in part for research or educational purposes provided the source is acknowledged.

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