What is a copyright?

In Canada, copyrights are the exclusive rights provided to the author of a work under the Copyright Act. The author's rights under copyright include:

(1) the sole right to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part in any material form;
(2) to perform the work or any substantial part in public;
(3) to produce, reproduce, perform or publish any translation of the work; and
(4) in the case of a computer program to lease the use of the computer program. 

For most matters, copyrights subsist for the life of the author plus 50 years.

In addition an author has moral rights to the integrity of the work and to be associated with the work as its author.  While copyright may be assigned, the author's moral rights are not assignable.  If a work is prepared for you, either by an employee or an independent contractor it may be important to obtain an assignment of copyright and waiver of the author's moral rights to permit unfettered discretion to use or commercially exploit the work.

What works are subject to copyright?

Copyright protects original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Artistic works include paintings, drawings (including logos), maps, charts, plans, photographs, engravings, sculptures, works of artistic craftsmanship and architectural works. Included are such pieces of business property as computer software, customer lists, product brochures, and even circuit board layouts.

Copyright cannot be enforced in a design of a useful article reproduced in quantities of more than 50. You must get an industrial design or patent to obtain any protection. In addition copyright cannot protect design features of a useful article dictated solely by function.

How does copyright arise?

Copyright arises automatically on creation.   Registration is not essential, but offers some procedural advantages in the event of infringement, and is therefore sometimes advisable in view of the relatively low cost.

Are any notices required to maintain protection?

Although no longer legally required, it remains recommended to include a copyright notice (such as, © Year of Publication, Name of Owner, All Rights Reserved) on all copies of the work, so as to provide specific notice to the public of the creator’s claim to copyright and making the low chance of a successful defence of “innocent infringement” even lower.  An expanded notice can be used if greater impact is desired.

Can any use be made of copyrighted material?

While the copyright in a work prevents others from making use of copies of the work for commercial purposes (sale or rent; distribute; import), there are provisions relating to fair dealing. For example it is not an infringement to make a copy of the work for the purpose of research or private study. A review of a work or news reporting may include copying provided the following are mentioned: the source and the name of the author, performer, maker or broadcaster. Educational institutions, libraries, archives and museums have special rights regarding fair dealing.

The rights to use of certain types of works for commercial purposes can be licensed from licensing bodies that grant licenses and collect royalties on-behalf of individual copyright owners. The best known of these licensing bodies is SOCAN, who deals with performing rights for musical works. Other licensing bodies include the Canadian Copyright Licencing Agency (CANCOPY) dealing with books, magazines, newspapers, etc.; the CARfac Copyright Collective for visual and media artists; and The Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (CMRRA) that deals with music reproduction rights in CD's and cassettes, use of music in films television, and other audio-visual reproductions.