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Learn how the process works, from disclosure to product!

What is copyright?

Copyright is the legal protection given to certain categories of original works, such as books and software.  It gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to deal with the work, subject to some limited exceptions, and can be a very valuable asset.

What does copyright protect?

Copyright protects literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works, as well as sound recordings, performances and communication signals. This encompasses a wide range of creations, ranging from books, articles, posters, manuals and graphs to CDs, DVDs, software, databases and websites.

I’ve got a great idea. Is it protected by copyright?

Copyright does not protect ideas, only the expression of ideas. This means that things like business concepts, plots and themes are not protected by copyright. However, the tangible expression of those elements in an article, flow-chart or PowerPoint presentation, for example, will be protected.

I generated some great data. Is it protected by copyright?

Copyright does not apply to facts or information, so your data alone will not get copyright protection. But if the data is expressed in a table, figure or an article, that table, figure or article will be protected by copyright.

How is copyright different from patents and trademarks?

Copyright does not protect inventions, brand names or slogans. Inventions are protected by patents and brand names and slogans by trademarks.

How long does copyright last?

In Canada, copyright generally lasts for the life of the author, plus 50 years. By contrast, in the U.S. and Europe, copyright lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.

Who owns copyright?

Under the Copyright Act, the general rule is that whoever creates the work owns the copyright to the work. However, if work is made by an employee in the course of his or her employment, the employer will own the copyright. These general rules can be changed by agreement, and frequently are. At U of G, the ownership of IP, including copyright, resides with the inventor/creator, with some exceptions based primarily on conditions attached to funding. Similarly, an agreement between a university and a website developer might specify that even though the developer is creating the website, the university will own the copyright.

For more information, please contact the Catalyst Centre.

If I use a subcontractor to help me, do they own part of the work?

It depends. Under copyright law, in most cases, independent contractors will own works they create, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Accordingly, whenever you involve other people in your projects, you should always have agreements in place from the beginning as to who will own the copyright in any work produced.

What rights does copyright give you?

Copyright gives the copyright owner a number of exclusive rights, including the right to produce, reproduce, perform, present or communicate their work to the public.  This means that, for example, you cannot post someone else’s article online, or use someone else’s figure in a book, unless you have their consent or fall within one of the Copyright Act’s exceptions.