How do I copyright my work?

Who holds copyright?
You do. That is to say, the creator, artist, painter, photographer, writer, musician, remixer, choreographer, filmmaker, blogger, journalist, and so on. You are the one who decides how the work is used. You can share it or not, publish it or not, sell it in part or whole, transfer it, and assign it.

When does copyright start?
You hold copyright automatically from the moment your idea becomes fixed: as soon as you hit the shutter button or press save on your manuscript. Your work doesn’t need to be published, or on the wall of a gallery, for it to have copyright. But while a photograph, novel, painting and so on is subject to copyright, the idea for that photograph, novel or painting isn’t.

 

While a photograph, novel, painting and so on is subject to copyright, the idea for that photograph, novel or painting isn’t.

Avatar
How does that work in the real world?

Another writer said James Cameron took his “concept” for a film about native people and the environment and used it for Avatar.  Someone else said it was a Russian fairytale.  A concept isn’t subject to copyright, but the screenplay is.

What are the benefits of registering my work?
While copyright is automatic, you can register your copyright through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

How else can I protect my work?
Whether you register your work or not, always put your name on it, and mark your work with the © symbol. It lets other people know you are limiting the way your work can be used. You can also state whether the work is all rights reserved or some rights reserved. And you can license your work with Creative Commons, which spells out for people exactly what they may do with your material.

 

Legal tip: Moral rights refer to the right to put your name on the work, and the right to prevent it from being distorted and or mutilated. For example, if you create (and sell) an artwork that goes in a mall, moral rights mean they cannot put Christmas decorations on it.