1. Introduction to Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a dynamic area of law that continues to be at the forefront of innovation, and continues to develop. Intellectual property is the legal right to ideas, inventions, and creations in the artistic, literary, industrial, and scientific fields. It also covers symbols, names, images, designs, and models used in business.

Intellectual property is distinguishable from physical property in that physical property is tangible whereas intellectual property does not have a physical presence and therefore cannot be touched or grasped.

The three most common types of intellectual property are: (1) copyrights; (2) trademarks; and (3) patents. This blog focuses on the law surrounding copyrights.

  1. Copyright

What is copyright? In simple terms, a copyright gives one the right to copy. A person that holds a copyright has the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of the work in any form. Copyright includes the right to perform the work or any substantial part of it. If a person's work is unpublished, copyright entitles that person to publish the work or any substantial part of it.

What does copyright protect? Copyright protects a person's original artistic, dramatic, musical, and literary creations, and therefore prevents the creation from being legally copied, performed, or broadcast without the creator's permission. It also protects software that is original.

Importantly, copyright protects the expression of an idea, rather than protecting the idea itself. It is therefore unsurprising that copyright affects artists, athletes, and entrepreneurs, all of whom might express ideas in vastly different ways, but are nevertheless equally deserving of protection.

Copyright commonly protects the following kinds of creative works:

  • literary works, such as books, pamphlets, and computer programs;
  • dramatic works, such as films, plays, screenplays, and scripts;
  • musical works, such as musical compositions; and
  • artistic works, such as paintings, drawings, and photographs.

Copyright also protects sound recordings, radio waves, and performers' performances.

Why is it important to register one's copyright? Copyright exists automatically once a person creates an original work or other subject-matter, provided certain conditions in the Copyright Act are met. A person's creation thus receives some copyright protection even without registering it at the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. However, when one registers its copyright and subsequently receives a certificate of registration, the certificate provides proof that the copyright exists and that the person registered is the owner of the copyright. Proof of copyright can help to prevent lengthy court disputes in the future.

How long does copyright protection last? Copyright lasts for the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and for 50 years following the end of that calendar year. This includes sound and video recordings, books, songs, poetry, and more.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.