Copyright: The Basics

WHY. Why copyright?

Copyright is a complex system with simple goals. It’s the system we use to promote the creation of art, music, books, plays, films, etc. – all the creative products that enrich our cultural life. Ideally, this system strikes a balance between fostering the public interest in the creation and circulation of cultural products, and ensuring compensation for the creators of those products.


Creative Commons

Sharon: A new one! There’s no example with this one, but maybe we should use example 2 (your original example) from the Photography Toolkit. Martha might have other ideas.

Creative Commons is a complementary alternative to the copyright system established by the Copyright Act. Creative Commons was developed in response to some of the shortcomings of current copyright law in relation to the sharing of creative works. This issue is especially important in an age when creative products can be so easily shared and


Fair Dealing

The fair dealing provisions of Canada’s Copyright Act (section 29) set out the limits to copyright. These are 1) research or private study, 2) and criticism and review, 2) news reporting. In addition the Act allows for specific exception to educational institutions, libraries, museums, and archives. For the purposes of criticism and review, the source, author, performer, maker or broadcaster must be cited.


Fair Use

Fair use is not a concept recognized in Canadian law.

It is a doctrine in U.S.-style copyright law that is similar to the Canadian system of fair dealing. But it is open-ended system, meaning it adopts a non-exhaustive set of uses, and focuses on principles for determining whether a use strikes an equitable balance between user and copyright holder interests.



Sharon: Martha likes the graphics, but we grabbed this from MusicBC so we’ll need to make our own. Any luck finding an example of a Canadian musician re-mixing Canadian music? Martha was asking about this again yesterday. I still got nothin’.

The business of music and the law is complex and highly specialized. As with most of copyright many of the rights are based on outdated technologies.



Photography is treated differently than other art forms in the Copyright Act. In cases where a photo is taken by someone who is not being commissioned to take the photo, the photographer is the copyright holder for the standard term of death plus 50 years. If the photographer is under contract to a corprate entity, the entity will hold copyright, but only for 50 years. This is the only exception to the “death plus 50” provision in Canadian Copyright law.