Copyright resources

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See also Copyright 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png | Digital libraries | EBooks | Open access | Research Portal for Academic Librarians

The Copyright laws of Canada govern the legally enforceable rights to creative and artistic works. Canada passed its first copyright statute in 1832 which was subject to copyright laws established by Britain until 1921. Current copyright laws were established by the Copyright Act of Canada, first passed in 1921 and amended in 1988, 1997 and 2012. In 2011, the Canadian government introduced Bill C-11 (passed in 2012, and now in effect) entitled the Copyright Modernization Act. The official regulations SI/2012-85 of The Copyright Modernization Act (Bill C-11) are in force. Some provisions come into effect at a later date. Between passing the bill and recent developments, Canada's Supreme Court re-affirmed a liberal interpretation of fair dealing which allows the copying of materials for education and research. The Court extended the interpretation to include reproduction of classroom copies for study saying "...fair dealing is technologically-neutral". Bill C-11 opens up fair dealing by including "education" as a legitimate reason to share copyrighted material. Statutory damages are limited in this new legal framework. Please consult a librarian or copyright lawyer for more information.

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Warning Concerning Copyright Restrictions

The copyright law of Canada (R.S. 1985, c, C-42) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyright material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be for a purpose other than research, criticism or private study. If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of fair dealing, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. We reserve the right to refuse a copying order if, in our judgement, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.

Interlibrary loan disclaimer

As per the Canadian Copyright Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42, s 30.2): The attached digital copy is to be used solely for the purposes of research, private study or education. Any other use may require the authorization of the copyright owner of the work in question. Canadian copyright law permits the printing of a single copy of this digital copy and requires that you cease using the digital copy within five business days from the day on which you first used it. ­The digital copy must not be stored, forwarded or distributed. It is recommended that you destroy the digital copy five days after its first use. [Name of Library goes here] is not responsible for the failure to abide by this policy, and you may be subject to liability for copyright infringement. It is a federal offence to infringe copyright

What is fair dealing as defined in Canadian copyright law?

Fair dealing is a long-standing feature of Canadian copyright law. The fair dealing provision permits certain uses of copyrighted material in ways that do not unduly threaten the interests of copyright owners, but which have significant social benefits. Currently, fair dealing in Canada is limited to research, private study, news reporting, criticism and review. To recognize the importance of education, parody and satire, Bill C-11 has added these elements as two additional fair dealing exemptions. The 1985 Copyright Act states that "fair dealing for the purpose of research or private study does not infringe copyright". Use of materials for criticism or news is now considered to be part of fair dealing when attribution is given properly. According to the Supreme Court, commercial use of materials is fair under certain circumstances; but copyright owners can take legal action against users when "fair dealing" cannot be demonstrated.

See also Di Valentino L. Review of Canadian university fair dealing policies. Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario. May 9, 2013.

What is fair use in US copyright law?

According to US Copyright, fair use allows for the reproduction of a copyrighted work by someone other than the author without their permission. This is an important limitation to rights accorded to owners of copyright. US law sets out conditions under which use can be considered "fair" such as reporting, research and teaching. It outlines four factors that should be considered when determining whether the use of a work is fair. Fair use can be defined differently depending on the individual case. In contrast to "fair dealing" in Canada, fair use allows users to use copyrighted materials freely in more situations and is meant to foster creative freedom for users of copyrighted material and subsequently for the enrichment of the public.

What does "... in the public domain" mean?

In Canada, works generally enter the public domain fifty (50) years after an author’s death. Under the 1985 Copyright Act (C-42), copyright lasts from the time materials are created throughout the author’s life including the calendar year of his death plus fifty (50) years. If works are given “new and novel expression” e.g. new editions or arrangements (“transformative” works) then a renewed copyright comes into effect. While an author's heirs do not inherit copyright of a work, they do inherit moral rights and occasionally trademarks.

A work falls within the public domain when:

  • copyright has expired (i.e. Project Gutenberg)
  • creators give copyrights to the public and make materials available free of charge (i.e. public domain/ open source software)
  • copyright does not exist for the item
  • works were created before copyright laws (i.e. Shakespeare and Beethoven)
  • works do not qualify for copyright protection (i.e. government publications, mathematical formulae, facts)

What is WIPO and what responsibility does Canada have under WIPO?

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is one of 16 specialized agencies of the United Nations. It is an international body "dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system, which rewards creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development while safeguarding the public interest". As a member state of the UN, Canada has joined WIPO. There two treaties which have been created by the organization: the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT). As participants in the development of these treaties, Canada agrees to uphold the principles they contain. The Canadian government must amend the Copyright Act to align with WIPO treaties. See also Berne Convention.

Canadian view of copyright for materials created by employees

A decision in the BC Supreme Court in 2014 ruled on the ownership of copyright in works created by employees. Under section 13(3) Works created in the course of employment, the employer is the first owner of copyright (absent a contract to the contrary) where the work is considered part of the employee’s duties. But this does not give the employer rights over all creations that may be created by an employee where there is no express responsibility to do such work. The case (see the decision here: involved an instructor at a college who took a photograph on the premises and the subject matter included college students. The court ruled that, even in the circumstances described, the photograph was not part of the instructor’s contractual duties and therefore the instructor retained first ownership in the copyrighted work. You can see some discussion of the implications for employers and employees in this post from the snIP/Its blog (Mccarthy-Tetrault law firm) here:

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(For more information see Harris, Lesley Ellen. Canadian Copyright Law. 3rd ed. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2001.)

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