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When does a copyright arise and where is it legal?

Copyright law and gavel
Copyright law. Photo from iStock/Getty Images

Imagine this: you have just written a cool song, and you’re sure it’s going to be a hit. You play it for your friend and the next thing you know, the song is on the radio, but your friend is being credited. You want to fight him on your rights to the song, how can you do that?

Well, you would fight him under Canadian copyright law. Copyrights are given to original artistic works. What copyright actually means is the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form.

A copyright arises when you have created original work. Canadian copyright laws actually protect the owner’s right to their original work.

While you don’t really have to register your original creation in order for a copyright to arise, it may cause problems later on if you don’t. For instance, if you don’t register and you claim your friend reproduced your work without permission, it may make it harder to prove that you are indeed the original owner of the work.

When you register your original work, you are issued a certificate of registration that proves you are the owner of the work.

There is a fee for applying for a certificate of registration. The fee you pay depends on your application method. For instance, if you apply on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office Website, then the fee is $50 if you submitted your application and fee online. For other application methods and fee remittance, it’ll cost you $65.

A copyright lasts for the owner’s entire lifespan plus 50 years after the date of his or her death.

Note that copyright is based on a first come, first serve basis, meaning the first owner of the copyright is the rightful owner. The government has published a Canadian Copyright Database where you can check what works have been copyrighted.

Where is it legal?

Your copyright will be valid and legally enforceable in Canada, but internationally protection of your copyright becomes more difficult. There isn’t really such a thing as an international copyright.

However, there is an international copyright treaty called the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which Canada is a party to.

The treaty asks of its member countries to enforce the copyrights of member signatories as well as the copyrights within their own countries. It also provides creators of original work the means of control of how their work is used and by whom.

Under this treaty, automatic protection is extended as soon as a work becomes fixed in a medium. It lasts for the owner’s life and 50 years thereafter, except for works of photography and cinema.

It’s based on three principles:

  1. Works originating in one of the contracting states have to be given the same protection in each of the other contracting states as is given to the works of its own nationals. Note that the work first has to be published in the owner’s state or origin.
  2. The protection afforded should not be restricted on compliance with any formality. This is also known as the principle of “automatic” protection.
  3. The protection doesn’t rely on the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work. However, beware that if the owner’s work is no longer protected in their country of original, then it may also cease being protected under the convention.

There are other international treaties that aim to protect copyrights of member countries such as:

  • Universal Copyright Convention Geneva
  • Universal Copyright Convention Paris
  • Agreement of Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • WIPO Copyright Treaty

Read More:

Canadian Intellectual Property Office

Canadian Copyright Act