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Canadian Copyright

Public health professionals are both users and creators of copyrighted works and are required to understand their rights and responsibilities under the Canadian Copyright Act.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a set of economic and moral rights that give copyright owners the right to allow others to reproduce their work.  

What Works are Copyrighted?

Any original work such as books, articles, videos, music, paintings, photographs, digital works, broadcasts, and performances are automatically protected by copyright.

There are works that are created in the public domain or created under a “creative commons” license.  These works can often be freely copied, distributed, and in some cases adapted, without prior permission from the copyright owner.

Who Owns Copyright?

The copyright owner is usually the creator of the work.  However, if a work is created during employment, usually the employer is the copyright owner.  If a work is created and published through a publishing company, usually the publisher owns the copyright.

How Does Copyright Affect Me?

Be aware that copyright does not just apply to photocopying original works.  Downloading original works off the Internet, sending digital works as email attachments, and copying some or all of an original work into your own work can all be forms of copyright infringement, depending on the amount of the work you copy.

However, within the Canadian Copyright Act the fair dealing exception does allow an individual to reproduce a copyrighted work for the purposes of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review, or news reporting without asking the copyright owner’s permission.

To qualify for the exception, the dealing must fall into one of the stated purposes above and be judged fair according to:

  • the character of the copying, including whether multiple copies were made and for what purpose,
  • the amount of the dealing, including the amount copied and the importance of that amount in relation to the whole work, 
  • alternatives to copying the work, including whether non-copyrighted works were available,
  • the nature of the work, including whether the work was used for commercial purposes, and,
  • whether the use of the work has negatively impacted the copyright owner financially.

If permission to reproduce a copyrighted work does not fall into the realm of fair dealing, permission from the copyright owner must be obtained.  Alternatively, some online resources are governed by a license and the terms of the license supersedes Copyright.  

For a more comprehensive understanding of copyright, refer to the Canadian Copyright Act.

Creators of original works also have rights.  The Canadian Intellectual Property Office produces a Guide to Copyright with general information and forms to register copyright.  While registering has some benefits, it is not necessary.  A creative work is automatically protected by copyright.

Date of creation: February 27, 2013
Last modified on: May 2, 2013