At first glance, U.S. and Canadian copyright law appear to have many similarities, but these two countries also have some important differences in their copyright law. Understanding those differences is vital to ensuring legal use of content on either side of the border.
Copyright Duration is Different in Canada and the U.S.
One example of an important distinction between U.S. and Canadian copyright law is the duration of copyright. In Canada, copyright exists in a work for life-plus-fifty years. However, in the U.S., copyright endures for life-plus-seventy years. This means that in the U.S., for a work whose author died in June 2012, copyright would expire on December 31, 2082 and the work would fall into the public domain on January 1, 2083. That’s twenty years later than when the works falls into the public domain in Canada.
What does that mean in practical terms? If you are photocopying a work in Canada by a Canadian author, you apply the Canadian duration of copyright. And if you are photocopying in a Canadian library a poem by a U.S. poet then you still apply Canadian copyright law – and the duration of copyright protection is 50 years after the poet’s death. If the content is posted online, then the same rules apply but become much more difficult to interpret since the place of use of the work is not as clear and the country’s law which applies is not as straightforward.
Does that mean you need to be an expert in international copyright law to use a U.S. article in Canada and vice versa? No. But it does mean that you have to understand that even though the two countries share a border, the laws on either side of the border can be different and result in different situations.
Fair Use v. Fair Dealing
Much of the information about copyright law found online is about U.S. law. If you are based in Canada, not all of that information applies to you. For example, the concept of fair use, which exists in the U.S. and is a much-discussed copyright principle, does not exist in Canada. Canada does have a somewhat comparable provision, fair dealing, but to understand fair dealing, you must read the Canadian Copyright Act and the important Supreme Court of Canada cases that interpret the fair dealing provision and provides Canadians with guidance how to apply fair dealing to their particular circumstances.
Canadians Understanding U.S. Copyright Law
Educate yourself on these and other significant aspects of U.S. copyright law for Canadians. Click here for information on the eTutorial on U.S. Copyright Law for Canadians. Syllabus and registration.