What is Copyright?

Copyright is the exclusive right to copy or reproduce a creative work or to sell certain rights to the work. These rights apply to literary, artistic, dramatic, or musical works in a tangible form. Generally, facts, themes, ideas, most titles, names, catch-phrases and other short-word combinations are not protected under copyright.

For a writer, copyright is the exclusive right to the reproduction and use of any creative material. The copyright is originally held by the author, but these rights may be transferred to other parties by the copyright holder. Copyright law deals with the economic and moral rights that the author holds for their creative work. These laws do not cover ideas, facts, most titles, names, catch-phrases and other short-word combinations. In Canada copyright is held for the lifetime of the author/creator/owner, followed by another fifty years. After the fifty years have passed the work enters the public domain.

Copyright is automatically applied to a creative work, from the time of creation. It is generally owned by the creator of the work; however there are some exceptions which include:

  • If a writer is working for a company, the employer will at times own the copyright if the work was done in the course of employment;
  • If an artistic piece was done on commission, the person who commissioned the work will own the copyright; and
  • If the creator has transferred the rights to another party.

Copyright exists automatically; however, registration with the copyright office is a good idea to indicate notice of copyright on your works.

To find out more concerning Canadian copyright laws visit the Department of Justice Canada website, or contact a lawyer in your area for specific inquiries.

Copyright and permissions terms

  • Author: This refers to the creator of an artistic work, the original copyright holder.
  • Artistic Work: A visual representation of a creative work. All artistic works are protected under Canadian Copyright laws and include paintings, drawings, maps, written documents (typed, electronic, handwritten), photographs, sculptures, engravings, or architectural plan
  • Creative Commons: A non-profit organization that provides tools that allow copyright owners to license their works using the “some rights reserved model”.
  • Dramatic Work: This refers to a variety of artistic works including plays, screenplays, scripts, films, videos and choreographic works.
  • Economic Rights: Rights that are owned by the author and protect the economic interests of the owner, giving them exclusive rights to reproduce and authorize reproduction. These rights can be sold.
  • Education Exceptions: These exceptions allow for copyrighted material to be used in specified ways by and in educational institutions without seeking the permission of the copyright owner.
  • Fair Dealing: This is a feature of the Canadian copyright law that permits both individuals and businesses to use copyright material in specified ways that do not threaten the interests of the copyright holder, but would rather have economic, cultural or societal benefits. (See section 29, 29.1 and 29.2 of Canada’s Copyright Act)
  • Intellectual Property: This term refers to the legal rights resulting from intellectual activity in various areas including the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields.
  • Moral Rights: These rights are held by the author of the work dealing with the integrity of the work, the right to claim authorship of the work and the right to remain anonymous. These rights cannot be sold.
  • Musical Work: Refers to a work of music or musical composition, music like any other form of artistic expressions is covered under copyright law.

Types of rights related to copyright

It is important to know what rights you have to your own work as well as the rights that other artists hold for their work. There are many types of rights that an artist particularly writers, hold as the copyright owner.

  • First Rights: This is the right sold to a publication allowing them the right to publish material in a particular location. These rights generally apply to print publication within North America, or a specific country.
  • One-Time Rights: This allows a publication (purchaser) to print a work only once. These rights may apply to a work that has been previously published elsewhere.
  • Reprint Rights/Second Serial Rights: These are the rights to reprint a work after the first rights have been sold.
  • Anthology Rights: These rights give a publication the right to print a work in an anthology.
  • First World English: These rights can be extremely restrictive for an artist/writer. These rights give the publisher the right to print the work first in the entire English speaking world. These rights eliminate the copyright owner’s ability to sell first rights to singular countries.
  • Excerpt Rights: This allows a publisher the right to use experts from your work.
  • Archival Rights: These rights have become extremely important with the growth of the internet and electronic media. Archival rights allow a publisher to make printed works available in electronic archives.
  • All Rights: Essentially this is the sale of all the copyright holder’s rights to any of their economic rights related to their work.

Tips and How to Seek Permissions

What is copyright infringement?

Copyright infringement occurs when any person, without the consent of the copyright owner, uses, reproduces, or encroaches on the protected rights of the owner as dictated in Canada’s Copyright Act.

There are generally two types of copyright infringement:

  1. Direct Infringement: This refers to the reproduction/publishing of a copyright protected work, occurring whether or not the infringer was aware of the copyright laws in their area.
  2. Indirect Infringement: This refers to the renting, selling, distribution or procession of copyright material for the purpose of selling or renting. Generally the infringer knows that their activities are an infringement of copyright.

Although copyright automatically protects against unauthorized reproduction of a creative work, there are some exceptions where infringement may not occur. These exceptions include “fair dealing”, education exceptions and Creative Commons. To avoid copyright infringement you are required to seek the copyright holder’s permission prior to reproducing or publishing their works.

Registering your copyright

Although copyright exists automatically on any artistic work in a tangible form, registering your work with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office will provide you with proof of copyright. By registering your work you will be given a certificate that indicates you are the copyright owner. This certificate can be used in court as evidence of ownership. Also, being on the Copyright Register makes finding an owner of copyright much easier when permission to use a work is being sought out.

How to register your copyright:

  1. Go to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website;
  2. File your application form online or by mail. Filing online will be much quicker than by regular mail. If you chose to file your application by regular post expect to wait up to three weeks for your application to be processed; and
  3. Pay your registration fee. This fee will be 50$ and should be paid when the application is submitted to the Copyright Office. The registration fee is a one-time only fee.

Although your work is registered, the copyright will not be monitored or policed. It is up to the copyright owner to enforce any copyright infringement.

You will also receive royalty payments through Access Copyright.

What is Access Copyright?

Access Copyright is a non-profit organization that was established with the goal of protecting intellectual property and ensuring that copyright owners are given fair compensation for the reproduction and use of their works. Access Copyright represents writers’ reproduction rights and through the organization distributes royalties through their licensing program. This company works with public schools, post-secondary institutions, businesses, municipal governments, non-profit organization and copyshops ensuring that the writers/artists receive fair compensation when their works are reproduced or used.

How to register with Access Copyright

  1. Visit the Access Copyright website and click on the “Creators” section.
  2. Check that you and your work meet all the eligibility requirements outlined by Access Copyright.
  3. After you have reviewed the Access Copyright eligibility, click on “Becoming an Access Copyright Affiliate” and follow the steps outlined on the website.

Access Copyright is free to register with.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a corporation that was developed to help bridge the gap between traditional copyright laws and the ever developing digital world. Creative Commons provides artists/writers with a set of copyright licenses and tools free of charge, allowing both private creators and large companies to maintain copyright while allowing certain specified uses of their works.

Creative Commons works within the boundaries of most international copyright laws, while also giving artists a means to dictate how their works are used by the public.

  • Creative Commons licenses are legal, and in case of infringement can be used in a court. Should creator be pursuing legal action, it is recommended that legal consul be consulted.
  • Creative Commons does not monitor the licenses, this remains the duty of the copyright holder, nor do they distribute monetary compensation for the use of any works.
  • Creative Commons does not replace registering your copyright with the Copyright Office of Canada.

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