Okay, so maybe it's neither as romantic as Gershwin's "An American in Paris", nor as historical as Mark Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," but many US lawyers do find themselves facing legal issues in Canada. US practitioners who deal with Canadian legal matters must take note of a few common pitfalls. In this series, we review some of the most common misconceptions and flag a number of important tips in the area of cross-border intellectual property law:
- Copyright Law - both countries are party to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and both copyright regimes cover the same basic categories of protection. In Canada, the Copyright Act protects original literary works, dramatic works (including choreographic works), musical and artistic works, computer programs, performances, sound recordings and communication signals. The scope of protection the USA is roughly the same.
A few tips on copyright:
- The term of protection in Canada the life of the author plus 50 years. In the US, the term of copyright is based on the author's life plus 70 years. There are variations that will impact the duration of protection, but that important distinction is worth noting.
- If a work is protected by copyright in Canada, it can benefit from protection in the US under the Berne Convention, and vice versa.
- Under the American DMCA, a notice-and-takedown system was implemented for the treatment of copyright infringement claims online. In recent amendments to the Canadian Copyright Act, a so-called notice-and-notice regime has been created. However, these provisions are not yet in force. Once implemented, a notice of online infringement would trigger an obligation to pass along notice of infringement, but not necessarily an obligation to takedown the allegedly infringing material.
- The concept of "works made for hire" does not appear in the Canadian Copyright Act. Employers in Canada, or US employers of Canadian employees, can rely on a provision (Section 13(3)) which stipulates ownership of works that are created in the course of employment are owned by the employer.
- Joint ownership of copyright is handled differently in Canada and the US - let's use software as an example. In Canada, generally speaking, a co-owner of copyright cannot license the rights to the software without the consent of the other co-owner, whereas in the US, a co-owner can license without consent.
For advice on cross-border intellectual property issues, contact Canadian counsel at Field Law.
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.