Copyright Modernization Act = New Canadian Copyright Laws

On 7 November 2012, amendments to the Canadian Copyright Act came into force. The amendments are in Bill C-11, the Canadian Modernization Act (CMA.) The amendments amend the existing Canadian Copyright Act. The CMA was introduced into the Canadian House of Commons on 29 September 2011. After going through several stages of consideration in the House and Senate, the CMA was passed,  i.e., received Royal Assent, on 29 June 2012.

New Canadian Copyright Laws

Many of the provisions in the CMA became effective 7 November 2012 through a Proclamation Order. The order has explanatory notes which are helpful in understanding the background of the amendments. In summary, all the provisions in the CMA are now law except for the provisions relating to the WIPO Digital Copyright Treaties, WCT and WPPT, and the Internet service provider notice-and-notice provisions.

Some highlights of the CMA now in effect:

  • fair dealing has three additional purposes – education, parody and satire
  • there are exceptions for consumers for time-shifting, format-shifting and the making of backup copies
  • there is a provision to protect individuals who create non-commercial user generated content
  • photographers will be the first owner of copyright in their photographs even in the case of commissioned photographs
  • libraries, archives and museums may digitize and copy material in an alternative format if there is danger of the original format becoming obsolete, and also provide interlibrary loans in a digital form
  • provisions for educational institutions have been modernized and new ones added for using publicly available materials on the internet, and for distance learning
  • there are prohibitions on the removal or tampering of digital rights management on content
  • there are prohibitions on the removal or tampering of copyright information (also called rights management information)
  • non-commercial infringers will be subject to lower statutory damages in an infringement lawsuit

Things you can do to keep up to date on Canadian Copyright Law:

  1. Read the Canadian Copyright Act
  2. Read the Copyright Modernization Act
  3. Read the Proclamation Order and explanatory notes
  4. Understand how copyright laws are made in Canada
Other things to consider re amendments to the Canadian Copyright Law:
  1. Enroll in an eTutorial on Canadian copyright law
  2. Consider a subscription to The Copyright & New Media Law Newsletter which covers Canadian and international copyright law (receive weekly updates/Copyright Alerts and 4 PDF Newsletters per year)
  3. Let us help you amend your Copyright Compliance Policy, prepare briefing notes on the changes and educate those in your organization
  4. Contact us to be informed about the publication of the 4th edition of the book, Canadian Copyright Law


  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Aliki, since 1924, the Canadian Copyright Act requires that all transfer of ownership of copyright are made in writing. However, you do not necessarily need to own the copyright in your situation. You could notify your contributors that any work submitted to you may be edited and published by you and that by submitting their work, they are providing you with permission to do so.

  2. Lesley says:

    Hi Sandy, Work for hire is a U.S. concept so I will not compare the Canadian provisions to the U.S. law. Whether a photographer is on staff or a freelancer depends on many circumstances include the way the person is paid, ownership of equipment used to produce the work, benefits, etc. You will have to examine your own set of circumstances to determine this.

  3. Aliki Courman says:

    I manage an online publication and website and our organisation wants to encourage our members to submit content, however as a non-profit we would not pay for this content.

    Is it enough to simply state in the author guidelines that content is given to us free of charge and we will edit it according to our own standards and once published by us we retain all rights to it? or do the authors of the content retain some rights to their article by virtue of having written it? Do we need a legal contract signed by the author which gives us exclusive rights to the content?

  4. Sandy Cooke says:

    Regarding this clause: •photographers will be the first owner of copyright in their photographs even in the case of commissioned photographs

    Does this mean work-for- hire (such as freelancers)?

    I assume a staff photographer, for a newspaper for example, would not be considered a commissioned photographer?


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