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  1. What is a copyright?
  2. Do I own copyright?
  3. Does copyright cover a computer program?
  4. How long does copyright last?
  5. Is copyright registration mandatory?
  6. What is not covered by Copyright?
  7. Copyright Expertise

What is a copyright?

Copyright is the embodiment or expression of an idea. The idea must be expressed in some form. Ownership of the idea expressed in some form allows the owner the exclusive right to:

  • use or not;
  • copy;
  • publish;
  • translate;
  • convert;
  • adapt;
  • record;
  • broadcast;
  • reproduce; or
  • allow or prevent others to do the same in Canada.

The forms in which copyrights may exist include:

  • literary (a Harry Potter® book or a video game – Game Boy®);
  • dramatic (Film – Gone with the Wind, screenplay to Three Men & a Baby);
  • musical score (Under My Thumb by the Rolling Stones); and
  • artistic work (architectural design of the National Gallery of Canada).

As with a trade-mark or industrial design, copyrights form part of the umbrella of creative rights known as intellectual property.

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Do I own Copyright?

Generally, if you write an article or are paid to design a website for another person or company, you, as the author, own the copyright unless there is a specific transfer agreement in writing. However, if you did so as an employee, the copyright may belong to your employer unless your employment contract says otherwise. Also, if you order/ commission and pay for an engraving, photograph or portrait, then you own the copyright to it. Your copyright has value and can be bought and sold like any product as long as the transfer is in writing. More about Copyrights under Resources.

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Does copyright cover a computer program?


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How long does copyright last?

Generally, an author or the owner of a copyright has exclusive rights only for the lifetime of the author plus 50 years following the end of the calendar year of the author’s death. For sound recordings, records, CD’s, tapes and photographs (where the original negative is owned by a corporation not controlled by the actual photographer), copyright lasts for 50 years from the end of the year in which the original master or negative is made. More about Copyrights under Resources.

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Is copyright registration mandatory?

No. So why bother? Registration provides you with an automatic presumption of copyright ownership and validity. It can be used to sell or license the copyright. Also if a legal dispute occurs, you do not need to prove ownership (a sealed self-addressed stamped envelope may not be enough) etc . . .

Your opponent has the heavy burden of proving that your copyright is invalid. During the legal dispute for instance, if you have a registration, your opponent cannot raise ignorance of your rights as a defence.

Furthermore, if any or part of your company’s success depends on its intellectual creativity capable of copyright protection, without a proper intellectual property protection strategy, your company’s existence may be short-lived. Lastly, independent research has shown that ownership of registered intellectual property significantly increases the market value of a company. More about Copyrights under Resources.

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What is not covered by Copyright?

Copyright does not protect an idea or concept in the abstract. Having an idea itself is not enough; you must have expressed your idea in a fixed medium (i.e. text, recording, drawing etc…).

Also titles, names, slogans, or other short word combinations do not fall under copyright protection; these require trade-mark protection. Nor does it apply to plots, characters, news or facts.

For example, you may have an idea for a board or computer game, it is not possible to protect the idea of the game, that is, the way the game is played, but you can protect the design or the software code and the text of the rules.

Also, copyright does not protect shapes, patterns, ornamentations or configurations (or any combination of these things) as applied to a product.

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Copyright Expertise

In medicine, all doctors are technically qualified to help you. However, when you have a specific problem, you want and need to see a specialist. The same principle is applicable with Canadian copyright issues. You want and need to entrust your most valuable assets to a copyright professional with the expertise and experience to efficiently provide you with solutions. More about us under Recognition.

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