Copyright is the sole right to produce, reproduce, publish or perform a work (or a substantial part of it) that belongs to one of the following categories:
- literary (e.g. books, pamphlets, computer programs and other works consisting of text)
- dramatic (e.g. motion picture films, plays, screenplays and scripts)
- musical (e.g. musical compositions, with or without words)
- artistic (e.g. paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures and plans)
Copyright also protects performances, sound recordings and communication signals, such as radio waves.
When you register your copyright, you receive a certificate issued by the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) that you can use in court as evidence that you own the work.
Copyright automatically protects your work as soon as you create it.
It lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years after their death.
Please see the Payments and fees page for information about CIPO's fees.
Once you have registered a copyright with CIPO, no further fees are required to maintain the registration.
An employer may hold the copyright for works created by employees, unless there is an agreement in place stating otherwise.
The Copyright Board of Canada sets the royalties for the use of works protected by copyright administered by a collective society.
Shakespeare's plays are part of the public domain, as the term for copyright has expired. Now everyone has an equal right to reproduce or republish those works.
What can I do with my copyright?
Evaluating and identifying your original works is an important part of your business. Think about how you will use the copyright of the work you publish. You should also think about how to benefit from the ownership of that copyright and the types of licensing or royalty arrangements you may want to explore.
Product designs, photographic images, songs, performances and computer programs are all valuable works and have the potential to earn revenue in the marketplace.
Protecting your copyright
Canadian law protects all original creative works, provided the conditions set out in the Copyright Act have been met. Simply put, the Act prohibits others from copying your work without your permission. Its purpose is to protect copyright owners while promoting creativity and the orderly exchange of ideas. Moreover, it also protects moral rights such as the right to the integrity of the work.
Note: CIPO cannot guarantee that the legitimacy of ownership or the originality of a work will never be questioned.
Selling and licensing
Increase your revenue and market share by licensing your copyright or part of a copyright work for exclusive or limited use to interested parties. A written agreement can detail how your copyright can be used.
You can also sell your copyright to generate revenue for your business. However, once it has been sold, you no longer have any control over how your copyright is used. Exceptionally, moral rights remain with the author.
Enforcing your rights
Monitor the marketplace for any unauthorized reproduction of your work. Enforcement is the responsibility of the copyright owner.
Be proactive! You may wish to place a copyright notice prominently on your work. It should include the date of first publication, the name of the owner and the copyright symbol (©).
For more information on copyright, please visit the Copyright page or contact our Client Service Centre at 1-866-997-1936.
Aussi offert en français sous le titre Droit d'auteur.