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Copyright exists in every original, literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work, including computer programs, databases, multimedia works, books, photographs, advertisements, logos and sound recordings. The author is generally the first owner of the copyright. However, works created by employees in the course of their employment are owned by the employer. Copyright subsists in Canada immediately upon creation and without the requirement for registration.

What is protected?

Only original work is protected, i.e. work that originates from the author and involves some minimal intellectual effort. A compilation of different works or forms of work, such as literary and musical, may also be protected by copyright.

Extent of Copyright Protection

A copyright owner has exclusive rights to control the reproduction, first public distribution, public performance, translation, publication, public telecommunication and adaptation of the copyrighted work.

Length of Protection

In general, copyright subsists for the life of the author plus 50 years. If the author dies before the work is published, copyright exists until publication and for 50 years after publication. In the case of photographs and sound recordings, copyright subsists for 50 years from the year in which those works were created.

Limitation Periods for Infringement Action

Copyright infringement occurs when the infringer exercises an exclusive right of the copyright owner without his or her consent. In civil cases, the limitation period for bringing an action for copyright infringement is three years. The period starts to run from the time when the claimant knew or could reasonably have been expected to know of the infringement.

Relationship between Copyright and Industrial Design

Copyright protection and industrial design protection are mutually exclusive. In other words, copyright protection is not generally available for designs that are protected under the Industrial Design Act. Caution must be exercised for the rare instances when the subject matter of an industrial design coincides with the subject matter of artistic copyright.

In cases where copyright exists in a useful article, or in the design applied to a useful article, and the article is reproduced more than 50 times, the owner of the copyright loses his or her right to prevent unauthorized copying.