What is copyright?

By October 12, 2019April 13th, 2023No Comments

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that applies for certain types of creative expressions (known as ‘works’). The types of works that may be eligible for copyright protection include artistic works, literary works, dramatic works, musical works, and compilation and collective works (e.g. literary anthologies and newspapers). Copyright arises automatically upon the creation of a work, and there is no requirement to register for copyright protection.

In Canada, for a work to be protected by copyright, it must be an original expression that is the product of intellectual effort by an author, and it must be fixed in a material form. Copyright does not protect facts or ideas or unexpressed concepts. It is also important to keep in mind that the author of a work may not be the owner of copyright in that work (although the author may retain their moral rights).

The owners of copyright in a work are exclusively entitled to use that work in certain ways, including to control the publication, reproduction, communication, modification, or distribution of that work. If someone besides the copyright owner exercises any of these rights (without the owner’s authorization) then it may amount to an infringement of copyright in the work (subject to various exceptions to copyright, including fair dealing).

Generally speaking, copyright protection for a work generally lasts for the lifetime of the author, and then for a further period that varies by country. In Canada, copyright protection currently lasts for 50 years from the end of the year of the author’s death. There are certain other conditions for works prepared by joint authors, and for works by unknown authors.

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has also published a helpful ‘Learn the Basics’ primer on Copyright, which can be found here.