Basically, the term “copyright” means the “right to copy”. Only the owner of copyright, who is often times the creator of the work, is allowed to produce or reproduce the work or to permit anyone else to do so. Copyright law rewards and protects creative endeavours by giving the owner the sole right to publish or use the work in any number of ways. The owner may also choose not to publish the work, yet prevent anyone else from doing so.

The four most common categories of copyright are literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works. Each of these general categories covers a wide range of creations. Here are just a few examples:

  • literary works: books, pamphlets, poems and other works consisting of text and computer programs;
  • dramatic works: films, videos, plays, screenplays and scripts;
  • musical works: compositions that consist of both words and music or music only (note that lyrics without music fall into the literary works category);
  • artistic works: paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures and architectural works.

The word "original" is key in defining a work that qualifies for copyright protection. Originality can be tricky to determine, however, and many court cases revolve around the question of whether a work has been copied, even in part, from somebody else's work.

An owner can sell his copyright to someone else. However, the owner will still retain what are called "moral rights". This means that no one, including the new owner of the copyright, is allowed to distort, mutilate or otherwise modify the work in a way that is prejudicial to the original owner’s honour or reputation. The original owner’s name must also be associated with the work as its author, if reasonable in the circumstances.

The owner of the work cannot sell or transfer his moral rights to anyone else, but can waive them when he sells or transfers the copyright or at a later date. A contract of sale or transfer may include a waiver clause. Moral rights exist for the same length of time as copyright, that is, usually for the lifetime of the author plus 50 years more, and passed to the heirs of the author, even if they do not inherit ownership of the copyright itself.

Virtually everyone living in Canada can enjoy the benefits of automatic copyright protection, however, it sometimes becomes necessary to provide evidence of ownership, as well as a sample of the copyrighted work itself. A Certificate of Copyright Registration is prima facie evidence of ownership of the work.

O’BRIEN TM SERVICES can assist you in obtaining a Certificate of Copyright Registration and ensure that you have, on hand, the proper documentation for identifying protected work.

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