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Copyrights in Canada

A copyright is a piece of intellectual property and gives the lone right to produce or reproduce a work or any significant part of it. It applies to any original work and protects the creator/artist from having other people recreate their work.

Copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act, originally produced in 1921. Its purpose is “to protect copyright owners while promoting creativity and the orderly exchange of ideas”.

Depending on the type of work, each copyright comes with its own set of rights and protections. Common rights include the right to publish, the right to perform, the right to produce a translation, and the right to rent or distribute. There are also moral rights, which is the author’s right to be associated (or not) with the work.

Protected Works

There are several categories of works that are protected with copyright, each with their own associated rights. They are:

  • Literary: includes books, pamphlets, essays, dictionaries, lectures, speeches, computer programs, and other works of text.
  • Dramatic: includes movies, plays, screenplays, scripts, characters, scenes, dialogue, and any other dramatic work.
  • Musical: any composition with or without words.
  • Artistic: includes paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures, engravings, and other forms of visual art.
  • Performance: includes performances, recitations, readings, and improvisations.
  • Sound Recordings Communication Signals: radio waves.

Note that this is not an exhaustive list; any original piece of work created with knowledge or skill has a copyright.

Unprotected Works

The Copyright Laws of Canada do not apply to:

  • soundtracks of films that already accompany the film;
  • unexpressed ideas;
  • facts;
  • impermanent items, such as brief live broadcasts, short spoken sentences, or spontaneous speeches.

Copyright Conditions

  • work must be original; and;
  • at the time of creation, the author must have been a permanent resident or citizen of Canada or another treaty country (a Berne Convention Country, a Universal Copyright Convention Country, or a World Trade Organization member).

How to Obtain a Copyright

Copyright automatically comes into existence as soon as the work is created. While not mandatory, owners are encouraged to apply for copyright registration. The certificate proves the copyright and the identity of the owner. To apply, owners must go online or send a form to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

  1. Include the title of the work, the associated category, date/place of first publication (if applicable), the name of the owner and a declaration that you are the owner or are submitting the application on behalf of the author. Don’t include the work itself.
  2. Pay fee of $50 (online) or $65 (paper application).
  3. You will receive a registration certificate with your copyright number within 5 business days (online) or 7 business days (paper application).

Frequently Asked Questions