It is better to deserve honors and not have them,
than to have them and not deserve them.”
Mark Twain

For direct links to the Directorate of Copyright and more, see our ‘Net Resources
1. Basically what is copyright law all about?
Copyright law was created to protect creators of original material. The law provides a way of determining “who gets paid” for their original work. It also provides “who pays” for use of that original work.

2. What is protected by copyright law?
literary works
dramatic works
artistic works
sound recordings
performer’s performances
communication signals
3. Who benefits from copyright law?
Copyright law protects the person or groups of persons who create original material — it establishes ownership.

4. How long does copyright protection last?
Some materials have a special term of copyright protection. However, the general ruleis that copyright protection lasts for the life of the creator of the work plus 50 years after the creator dies. After this time passes, in most cases, the work becomes part of the public domain.

5. What legal rights are provided to the creator of an original work?
In general, copyright ownership gives someone the legal authority, under an agreement, to set contracts with others (whether for a fee or for free) as to who uses their copyrighted material, how it may be used and for how long. While many rights are covered within copyright law, of interest to educators using the Internet (for information gathering or electronic publishing) are the following rights held by copyright owners:

the right to copy — including the printing of material
the right to communciate to the public by telecommunications
6. What exceptions or limitations are there to the rights of copyright owners?
Sometimes exceptions will be made, within copyright law, and are generally granted to specific groups that work to benefit the public good; that is, organizations that can prove they serve the best interests of the public. Through these exceptions, the Government may give authority for specific groups to have the right to use copyrighted works without asking permission and without paying for the use of those works.

7. What are the consequences when copyright law is broken?
When copyright law is broken it is called copyright infringement. Using material without the authorization of the copyright owner may result in some form of legal action, such as claims for damages, injunctions to prevent use, etc.

This brief overview addresses key questions concerning Canadian Copyright Law in general, so that you can determine how they affect you. This represents a summary of a presentation made (June 8, 2001) by Wanda Noel, lawyer and author.