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What Is Copyright?

Intellectual Property and Copyright
Copyright laws allow creators and their business representatives to control their works (content) by issuing licenses or selling their rights, like a deed to a home. Only the holder of the copyright is allowed to produce or reproduce the work or to permit (license) others to do so. Copyright owners may choose not to publish their work and to prevent others from doing so.

Copyright is a type of intellectual property that deals with the "expression" or physical manifestation of certain intellectual properties: literary, musical, visual, and audio-visual creations, commonly known as "works" or "content".

A Bundle of Rights

The term copyright refers to a bundle of rights, including the right to reproduce, the right to perform, the right to communicate (such as broadcast or send over a network), and the right to control the context of a work (the Moral Right). Each of the parts of Copyright may be assigned (sold) or licensed (see Permissions) separately, and to separate parties. For example, a performing rights society like SOCAN may control the right to perform a song in public while a reproduction rights society like CMRRA or SODRAC may control the right to reproduce the same song as sheet music, on a CD, or in a movie.

How Long Does Copyright Last?
In Canada and most other countries (with the exception of the U.S.) Copyright lasts for the lifetime of the longest surviving creator plus 50 years. The last year of Copyright protection always ends on December 31. The Moral Right (see Glossary) is passed on to the creator's heirs, even if the other portions of the copyright bundle have been assigned to other different parties.

Some exceptions:

  • Crown works - created by the government (see Glossary);
  • Works published after the creator has died are protected for 50 years from the date of first publication or public performance;
  • Works by an unknown author have copyright for the lesser of 50 years from first publication or 75 years from creation.

The Public Domain Wizard lets you know whether a work is still under Copyright by answering a few simple questions.

Examples of Copyright Works
Songs, stories, or images, when they are expressed in sheet music, a book, or photograph, for example, are subject to copyright. Facts, ideas and news are not covered by copyright. However their expression - the way they are arranged - IS covered. So... you can use the information from a news story without a license, but you can't use the sentences, paragraphs, or video of the news story without a license. Titles, names, slogans, or short phrases are not covered by copyright but proper names may be protected by trade-marks.

Examples of Copyright Infringement

  • reprinting an article without the copyright owner's permission
  • playing records at a dance without a license from SOCAN
  • giving a public performance of a play without permission
  • photocopying articles for a class of students without permission
  • recording your favourite band at a music concert without permission

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