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Copyrights Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)


What is a Copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property which permits the copyright owner to exclude others from copying a particular literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work. The copyright owner has the exclusive rights to reproduce the work, either in whole or in part, in any form. For example, the copyright owner has the exclusive right to make copies of the work, have the work publically performed, and/or have the work publically broadcast. The copyright owner has the right to restrain others from making and distributing unauthorized copies of the work.

What is covered by Copyright?

Any original literary, dramatic, musical and/or artistic work may be protected by Copyright. The following examples can be covered by Copyright, namely; computer programs, books, plays, songs, photographs, sound recordings, graphs, charts, tables, forms and electronic data such as databases, and spread sheets.

Can I Copyright a Name?

A particular name such as a business name, is protected by Trademark. If you wish to protect a business name, trade name or a business slogan, then you should attempt to register a trademark.

Can I Copyright an Idea?

Ideas are not covered by Copyright per say. Hence, if you have an idea for a novel, the idea may not be protected by Copyright, but the actual novel will be. If the idea is an invention, a mechanical device or a method of doing something, then it may be protectable by a Patent.

How long does Copyright last?

Generally speaking Copyright subsists for the life of the author plus fifty(50) years. In the case of photographs and sound recordings, Copyright generally subsists for fifty(50) years from the year in which those works were created.

What are Moral Rights?

In Canada, the Copyright Act provides that the author of a particular work has the right to claim credit as the author of that work. The author also has the right to prevent his/her work from being used in such a way as to hurt that author’s reputation. For example, the author of a sculpture has the right to demand that the sculpture not be defaced, even if that author has sold the sculpture.

How do I get Copyright?

Copyright exists automatically. Nothing has to be registered or filed with the government. As soon as the work is created in a fixed form, then Copyright exists. However, the work must actually be in a fixed form to be protected. Therefore, a song which you created in your mind is not protected until it is actually written down or recorded.

Who owns Copyright?

Generally speaking, the first owner of the Copyright is the author of the work. Hence, the artist who creates a sculpture or the writer who writes a novel will be the owner of the Copyright in those works. However, if the author created the work as part of his employment, then the employer will be the owner of the Copyright work. For example, if an employee prepares a product manual for his employer, then Copyright in the manual will be owned by the company.

Can you register Copyright?

As mentioned above, it is not necessary to register Copyright since Copyright exists automatically when a work is completed. However, registering Copyright is often a good idea. A Copyright Registration can be used to prove that the work is protected by Copyright and that the person named in the registration is the actual owner of the Copyright. If there was a dispute in the ownership of Copyright, a Copyright Registration can be used as evidence in a court of law. Unless proven otherwise, the owner named in the registration is presumed to be the owner of the Copyrighted work, and Copyright is presumed to exist in the work.

How is Copyright Registered?

In order to register Copyright in a particular work, an application must be filed with the Copyright Office. The application will identify the author of the work, the owner of the work, and the work must be identified by a title. The application will also specify whether the work is published or unpublished. The government filing fee must be enclosed with the application. For a Canadian Copyright Registration, it is not necessary to enclose a copy of the actual work. For a United States Copyright Registration, a copy of the work may be required.


Under Canadian Copyright Law, a Copyright Notice is not strictly required. However, it is advisable to mark all published copies of the work with a copy a Copyright Notice. The following Copyright Notice may be used: "Copyright, first year of publication, Copyright owner’s name. All Rights Reserved". The Copyright symbol (©) can be substituted for the word "Copyright". If someone copies a protected work, either in whole or in part, without the owner’s permission, then they may be infringing Copyright. Anyone who knowingly distributes copies of this work may also be committing an act of Copyright infringement. The Copyright owner has the right to bring a lawsuit against the infringing party. If a Copyright owner is successful in the lawsuit, they may be able to get a court order for damages, for lost profits, and/or an injunction.
In some circumstances, knowingly infringing someone else’s Copyright may be punishable under Criminal Law. The punishment for Criminal Copyright offenses can be severe (imprisonment, and/or fines).

Copyright and Industrial Design

Generally speaking, if an esthetically appealing or artistic design is applied to a useful item such as a chair or toy, and if more than 50 of those items are produced, the Copyright in those items is not enforceable. The esthetic look of those products may be protected by an Industrial Design.

International Copyright

Canada has signed several International Copyright Treaties (The Burn Convention on Copyright and The Universal Copyright Convention). Generally speaking, these Copyright Treaties extend Copyright protection to all of the treaty countries. Most of the countries in the world have signed these Treaties.

Licensing and Sale of Copyright.

Copyright can be bought, sold, and licensed like any other property.