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Copyright and Piracy



In Canada, the Copyright Act governs copyright law. Almost all forms of expression, like videos, paintings, musical scores, performances, stories, or computer programs fall under copyright protection, so long as they are recorded in some way (such as a book or a computer file) or performed. Copyright is automatic whenever an original work is created, written down, performed, recorded, or entered onto a computer

In general, copyright lasts as long as the author is still alive. After that, there is a waiting period for about 50 years before a work falls into the “public domain”. Public domain means that anyone can use it. 

Copyright can be complicated.  For more information about copyright, visit Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s website.

Registering copyright

You automatically have copyright protection as soon as you create or perform an original work as noted above. You do not have to register copyright for you to have copyright protection. 

Registering copyright, however, gives your work extra legal protection. When you register your copyright, you get a certificate of copyright. This certificate is proof that you own the work. If someone copies your work without your permission, you can use the certificate in court to prove you own the work. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office has more information on copyright registration.

Copyright infringement

Copyright infringement is illegal and the penalties for it should be taken seriously.

Copyright “infringement” means violating the laws of copyright. Copyright laws are violated when  a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed or made into a very similar work without the permission of the copyright owner. Copyright infringement also includes acts of digital piracy and plagiarism

If you infringe copyright, the owner of copyright may sue you.  A judge can award damages against you if the judge decides you have infringed the owner’s copyrights. “Damages” means money that you have to pay to the copyright owner for what you did. You may also have to pay the copyright owner the amount of any money you made while infringing the owner’s copyright. 

Copyright infringement is also a criminal offence. Under the Copyright Act, a judge can fine you and even send you to a prison as punishment for infringement.

In Canada, all original published works are copyrighted. Generally speaking, if a website has a “share” button that allows users to copy and post content — websites like YouTube, Flickr, Photobucket — then it is okay to share the work without infringing on copyrights. However, most websites do not have a share button and generally, it is illegal to copy and post content from them. So, for example, you should not copy and post pictures from Google Images, Bing, or eBay. You also should not post video or images that are copyrighted onto YouTube or on to social media sites. 

For more information about using or posting copyright videos or images online or on social media, you can find out more by visiting the following sites for YouTube, Google, Facebook and Instagram: 

To learn more about copyright, visit Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s website.

Last reviewed date: 2021/ Apr