10 Myths About Canadian Copyright Law

Canadian Copyright Law

This post will enlighten you about Canadian copyright law. It sets out myths (and misinformation) with an explanation of the correct fact concerning copyright law in Canada. Each country has a unique copyright law and these 10 myths deal specifically with Canadian copyright law. Also see our Certificate in Canadian Copyright Law.

Myths and Facts About Canadian Copyright Law

Can you answer these questions about Canadian Copyright Law?

  • Does fair use exist in Canada?
  • Do you have to register a work to be protected by Canadian copyright law?
  • Is it mandatory to use the © symbol in Canada?

Do you know the answer to these and other questions about Canadian copyright law? Do others you work with understand the principles of Canadian copyright law? Share this list of 10 myths about Canadian copyright law and use it as a starting point to get the copyright conversation started in your library, institution or organization.

Below are 10 myths about Canadian copyright law. Read the myth, then read the actual fact to increase you knowledge about Canadian copyright law.


  1. MYTH:  Ideas are protected by Canadian copyright law.
    • Ideas, facts, history and news are not protected by Canadian copyright law.  It is the expression of ideas, etc., that are protected by copyright. Anyone can summarize the ideas or facts from an article or book without obtaining copyright permission; however if you photocopy or digitize the article or book, then you do need copyright permission.
  1. MYTH:  Canada’s copyright duration of life plus 50 is inconsistent with the international norm.
    • The international norm for the duration of copyright protection is life of the author plus fifty years.  This is set out in the leading international copyright treaty, the Berne Convention. However some countries, including the U.S. and European Union countries, go beyond this norm and now provide copyright protection 70 years after the death of the author.
    • Canada has now extended the protection of copyright in performances and sound recordings to 70 years after the release date of the sound recording. This new term is effective 23 June 2015.
  1. MYTH:  The Canadian Copyright Act has been rewritten twice in the past century.
    • The current Canadian Copyright Act was enacted in 1924 and has never been fully replaced by an entire new Act.  The current Act has, however, been amended a number of times.  Current Canadian government initiatives have been to amend the Act rather than overhaul it and replace it with an entirely new Act. The most current major amendments to the 1924 Act are in Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, which received royal assent on 29 June 2012.  Most of the changes from the 2012 Bill C-11 came into force in November 2012.
  1. MYTH:  Creators in Canada must register their works in the Canadian Copyright Office.
    • Copyright is automatic upon the creation of a work in a fixed form.  You may register your works with the Canadian Copyright Office and will then receive some benefits should you ever enforce your rights in a legal suit.  However, registration is not mandatory for copyright protection.
  1. MYTH:  Canada is not a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) leading treaty on copyright, the Berne Convention.
    • Canada joined the Berne Convention in 1928.  In addition, Canada joined the two WIPO digital/Internet treaties in 2014.

Click for information about the Certificate in Canadian Copyright Law

  1. MYTH:  Fair use exists in Canada.
    • Fair use is a doctrine that exists in the U.S. and other countries; it does not exist in Canada. The Canadian Copyright Act contains the principle of fair dealing which is often compared to the U.S. fair use.
  1. MYTH:  Canadian government works are not protected by copyright.
    • Canadian government works are protected by copyright however “Permission to reproduce Government of Canada works, in part or in whole, and by any means, for personal or public non-commercial purposes, or for cost-recovery purposes, is not required, unless otherwise specified in the material you wish to reproduce.”  See Government of Canada Publications.
  1. MYTH:  Employers are considered the authors of the works produced by their employees.
    • Works created in the course of employment during the course of an employee’s duties belong to the employer.  However, the author/employee remains the author of the work.  Duration of protection of the work is determined by the employee/author’s life, and the employee retains the moral rights in such works.
  1.  MYTH:  Using the copyright symbol, ©, is necessary to have copyright protection in Canada.
    • The copyright symbol is not mentioned in the Canadian Copyright Act and is not mandatory for copyright protection in Canada.  It is a good idea to use the symbol to inform the world that the work is protected by copyright. Some copyright owners go further and include their email address following the copyright symbol in order to make it easier for people to request permission to use their works.
  1. MYTH:  To be protected outside of Canada, a copyright author/owner must register his works in each country where protection is sought.
    • Once an author is protected by copyright in Canada, the author is protected in the 173 countries that are members of the Berne Convention. All members of the Berne Convention have automatic copyright protection and cannot have requirements for registration in order to protect a work by copyright.

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  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Louis-Rene – the reference to news is news in any context including a Canadian newspaper. You may use the ideas in a news story however you may not copy the article containing that news. You cannot photocopy or digitize the article.

  2. Louis-Rene Dessureault says:

    Hi Lesley,
    The first myth you described on the web site http://vps7961.inmotionhosting.com/~copyrightlaws/canadian/10-myths-about-canadian-copyright-law/ is :
    “MYTH: Ideas are protected by Canadian Copyright Law.
    Ideas, facts, history and news are not protected by Canadian copyright law. It is the expression of ideas, etc., that are protected by copyright.“
    When you say “… and news” are you referring to published news in Canadian newspaper?

    Thanks in advance for your answer,

  3. Linda Tanaka says:

    Lesley on the topic of Govt of Canada work, never a fee that I have come across but the paperwork is a pain. If permission is going to be given freely why have a group of people up there in Ottawa rubber stamping documents? That I don’t understand. I think it must be because they contact each department to ask if the picture or text is third party material. I sometimes wish that if a contractor does something for the government, the permission to use it is automatically attained by the government. Although that is not the case in the USA either, so I am just dreaming.

  4. Lesley says:

    Hi Linda, my own experience is that it is quite easy to clear rights for that use and it is possible that you will not have to pay a fee. If I’m wrong, please let me know re the fee. Thanks.

  5. Lesley says:

    Thanks Tyler, many Canadians register in the US for this purpose. It’s also a good idea to register in the US if your works will be used there and you ever need to enforce your rights.

  6. Tyler Fric says:

    Good concise guide. I would add though that registering abroad may be helpful, even if not required. Copyright registration is often used as evidence of ownership in court.

  7. Linda Tanaka says:

    I wish Govt of Canada work was free to use in textbooks! I presume not since the publishing companies are for-profit.

    Linda Tanaka

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