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What is Copyright?

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Copyright is part of a larger area of law known as intellectual property law that protects the intellectual nature of a work. Copyright protects most types of intellectual property regardless of format including text, images, and videos. Only the copyright owner has the right to reproduce an entire work or a substantial part of that work, unless permission is provided or the reproduction is permissible under the Copyright Act.


Copyright law is meant to encourage innovation, learning, expression of ideas, and dissemination of knowledge. The law tries to strike a balance between the rights of creators and the rights of users of copyright-protected materials. For creators, the law is meant to ensure that they have control over their own works. For users, the law provides conditions under which someone else’s work may be legally used. The law also limits the length of copyright protection after which copyright expires and work enters the public domain. 




Reproducing a work includes actions such as photocopying, scanning, downloading, uploading, or emailing. A work can include written text, art, music, a dramatic work, or a stand-alone work (e.g., a graph, chart, map, figure, photograph, table, or diagram). A work can also be a sound recording, a performance, or a communication signal.


In Canada, there is no requirement that a work be registered for it to be protected by copyright or that the word “copyright” or the universal copyright symbol “©” appear on the work for it to be protected. However, it is recommended that you include the copyright symbol on any works you create, as it serves as a reminder that the work is protected. Copyright protection exists as soon as a work is created in a fixed form (e.g., written down, recorded). Facts and ideas are not subject to copyright protection. However, the expression of facts and ideas are protected.


Consult our Frequently Asked Questions page to learn more. 


This website provides educational information. It does not provide legal advice. 


Source: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. (2016). What is copyright? (Canada). Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljNS5p3cqls


Source: University of Saskatchewan. (n.d.). What is copyright? Retrieved from https://alpha.library.usask.ca/copyright/general-information/what-is-copyright.php. [Reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.]


Source: University of Regina. (n.d.). What is copyright? Retrieved from https://www.uregina.ca/copyright/basics/what-is-copyright.html. [Reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.]