How Copyrights Work

Every song released by your favourite artist, every movie directed by your favourite director, and every painting painted by your favourite painter are most likely protected by a copyright (if not, then they really, really need better legal advice). A copyright is a type of intellectual property that prevents other parties from utilising an artist’s creative work or expression, except without permission. This expression can take the form of a song, a painting, a movie, a piece of literature, etc. In this blog, we intend to explain everything that there is to know what copyrights, how copyrights work, and how you can protect your artistic creations by simply copyrighting it.Image source:

The Mark

How does one know if any work is protected by copyright? A valid copyright notice must contain all of these.

  • The term ‘copyright’
  • The symbol ‘:copyright:’
  • The date of publication/creation
  • The name of the author of the person who owns the copyright

The Use

How and when can I use an author’s work?

For a Profitable Use

If the work is currently under copyright protection, it becomes essential for you to seek the permission of the author. Or, you simply have to wait for the copyright to expire. In Canada, a copyright generally expires 50 years after the death of the author.

For Free Use

If you are using a copyright for academic reasons or for the purpose of parody, then you need not seek the prior permission of the author. This is what copyright lawyers refer to as the ‘fair use rule’. For example, an academic can freely comment on or critique the work of another academic or artist. And, a comedian can freely poke fun at certain aspects of an artist’s work.

From the Internet

Well, to put it mildly, not everything on the internet is free to use. The content you see on the net is also eligible for copyright protection (look for the copyright symbol!). There is, however, some material that you can freely use. This material is usually hosted by Creative Commons. It is, however, important to clearly read the disclaimer. Some material can be edited and used while other material must be used as is. Some material you can use after providing the required attribution to the author and some material you can use without it.

The Protection

What can I protect?

The Can

  • You can copyright a book
  • You can copyright a sound recording
  • You can copyright a picture
  • You can copyright a photograph
  • You can copyright a painting
  • You can copyright a recipe
  • You can copyright a piece of literature
  • You can copyright a movie
  • And, you can copyright a choreographic work

However, all of this work should exist in a tangible medium.

The Can’t

  • You can’t copyright works that do not exist in a tangible medium. For example, you cannot copyright a song recording that doesn’t exist on type
  • You cannot copyright items such as a logo, a phrase, a slogan, etc. These are instead protected by a trademark
  • You cannot copyright previously copyrighted material as this material now exists in the public domain
  • You cannot copyright inventions as these items are suited to patent protection

The Copyright

How Can I Copyright My Material?While we would happily answer the question of how you can copyright material but that is beyond the scope of this article. Our copyright lawyers, however, would love to answer that question for you if only you would contact them.