The duration of copyright in Canada is 50 years after the death of the author. There are several exceptions to this general rule of duration in Canadian copyright law.
The Duration of Copyright in Canada
The Canadian Copyright Act provides the general rule for the length of copyright protection for published works as:
the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year.
This is often referred to as “life-plus-fifty.” Under this rule, an author has copyright in a work they create throughout their lifetime. Their heirs or assignees have copyright for a period of 50 years after the author’s death. The copyright will expire at the calendar year end of the fiftieth year.
Under Canadian copyright law, duration is determined by the life of the author, not by the life of the owner of copyright. Where an author sells their copyright and assigns the rights in their work to another person or entity, the duration of copyright is still calculated based on the life of the author. Even where works are made during the course of employment, copyright is determined based on the life of the author.
For further information on Canadian Copyright law, see 8 Facts About Canadian Copyright Law.
Calculation of the Duration of Copyright in Canada
You calculate the duration of copyright based on the calendar year plus fifty years, as opposed to the actual date of the author’s death. For example, if a writer died on 1 March 1980, copyright in their books expires on 31 December 31 2030. In fact, most creations of the same author (unless any creations are subject to a specific provision other than the general rule of copyright) will be protected for the same amount of time.
There are exceptions to the above general rule of life-plus-fifty. One exception is that Crown or government works in Canada are protected until published and for an additional fifty years from the date of publication.
Duration of Moral Rights Protection in Canada
The Canadian Copyright Act specifically states that moral rights last for the same term as copyright. Moral rights endure for the life of the author plus 50 years from the calendar year end of the author’s death. This means that heirs can sue on behalf of a deceased author where it seems that a modification to a work resulted in prejudice to the author’s honor or reputation, or to protect any other of the moral rights.
Duration of Copyright in Canada in Sound Recordings
Effective 23 June 2015, Canada extended the protection of copyright in specific works only: in performances and sound recordings. The duration of copyright protection in performances and sound recordings is now 70 years after the release date of the sound recording. See Canada Extends Copyright Protection in Sound Recordings.
What is a Public Domain Work in Canada?
As in other countries, once copyright has expired in a work, the work is said to be in the public domain. The work is no longer protected by copyright and can be used freely, without obtaining permission from or compensating the copyright owner. Works of Mozart and Shakespeare are in the public domain and can be copied freely (provided the works are not adaptations). Once copyright expires, moral rights also expire, and a work may be freely adapted and used without the author’s name on it.
In some countries, however, moral rights are in perpetuity and exist even after copyright in a work expires.
Can Copyright be Renewed in Canada?
In Canada, the duration of copyright cannot be extended or renewed.
Copyright Duration in Other Countries
Copyright duration in the U.S., Europe and many other countries is now life of the author plus 70 years. Will Canada extend the length of copyright protection in all protected works? This is hard to predict but something we can all keep an eye out for.
Ownership of copyright works is another important topic you may want to read about. See the article Who Owns Copyright in Canada.
If you like this article, learn more about copyright in Canada through our eTutorial Canadian Copyright Law.