LIS 525 - Copyright

Copyright protects various kinds of works - literary, dramatic, artistic, musical - including computer programs, sound recordings, performances, and communication signals, in all formats, including private communications, and exists from the point of creation.

Copyright is divisible: specific rights may be assigned (for example, for publication in North America) or the entire copyright may be assigned. A written agreement is normally required. A work may also be placed in the public domain or fall into the public domain when the copyright expires.

The initial owner of the copyright is normally the author or creator. Some exceptions are photographs, the owner of the negative (if any); works for hire, the employer; sound recordings, the maker of the recording; government or crown corporation, the Crown; performances, the performers.

Things that cannot be copyrighted include ideas (some may be patentable, however), titles, phrases, and slogans (the law of trademarks applies here), facts (though compilations of facts can be copyrighted), and material in the public domain.

A variety of exceptions are provided in Canadian law, where infringement of copyright is not considered to take place: copying for the purpose of research or private study, or (if properly credited) for criticism, review, or news reporting; various activities of educational institutions acting "without motive of gain", somewhat limited by medium and purpose, and sometimes by whether a commercial alternative is available; certain kinds of archival copying; copying covered by an agreement with a collective; single backup copies of computer programs; ephemeral recordings of non-cinematic performances; transfer of non-cinematic material to another medium for the perceptually disabled (except large-print books), if not commercially available in that medium; certain copying required by law; some performances by religious and other institutions; and some incidental inclusions.

Normally, copyright lasts for 50 years following the calendar year in which the author dies, if the initial copyright belongs to a natural person; otherwise, the term is usually 50 years from creation of the work.

In addition to the essentially economic right of copyright, Canadian law also give some recognition to moral rights. Moral rights may not be assigned, but may be waived. They protect the integrity of the work (but only against modification or use "to the prejudice of the honour or reputation of the author") and the right to be associated with the work, or to use a pseudonym or to remain anonymous.

Copyright in electronic materials is still a contentious legal area. Part of the problem is a clash of professional "cultures". Another difficulty is that the law reacts to actual cases instead of anticipating future problems. Traditionally also laws general apply within particular jurisdictions (or sometimes to the citizens of particular states), which may be harder to determine in Cyberspace. Here are some specific issues that may be of concern to a manager of an Internet information service.

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Last updated October 31, 2007.
This page maintained by Prof. Tim Craven
E-mail (text/plain only): craven@uwo.ca
Faculty of Information and Media Studies
University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario
Canada, N6A 5B7