If you are creator or publisher of original creative works, you will want to know about copyright law. The digital world has made the practical application of copyright more complicated than in the past. What about downloading and file sharing, what about digital rights management? And, in our shrinking world of the Internet, what happens when works of art are disseminated outside of Canada?
These are just some of the questions that may arise for creators and publishers of works that are protected by copyright. This article will provide some guidance on how to find information that answers your questions.
Copyright law is concerned with the rights to control the production, reproduction and dissemination of original creative works. These rights in Canada are protected by virtue of the Copyright Act, R.S.C., 1982, C-42 . The statutes and regulations of Canada can be found online and the official source is at the Justice Laws Website.
Canadian law is adjudicated under a common law system, with the exception of Quebec. In a common law system, the courts are the arena in which adjudication on issues of law occurs. The decisions of the courts, called case law, are the authoritative guide to the application of the law in particular fact situations. So, for a thorough understanding of copyright law, a review of the case law is needed. You may have more practical questions about registering copyright, or how to manage copyright. Reviewing the key cases, especially those of the Supreme Court of Canada, will help you to understand how the law is applied. You can search for free and review case law through the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) database. There are also databases for which a paid subscription is needed, such as Westlaw Canada and Quicklaw. Alberta Law Libraries’ locations have these databases available for use in the library (Quicklaw in Edmonton and Calgary, and Westlaw in our other branches).
Understanding and Applying the Law
Some legal issues will not have gone through the courts; some because a dispute has not arisen, and some because the particular point of law is not controversial. In those situations, you may want to review some secondary legal materials. These are resources like textbooks, articles, blogs and other commentary written by people who are experts in the area of copyright law or the broader area of intellectual property. These resources are not law, but they will have been written based on expert study and experience in the area of law.
You may have more practical questions about registering copyright, or how to manage copyright. You can find resources such as the Canadian Intellectual Property Office website to learn about registration of copyright and find related information. There are also certain industry-specific resources that may help. For example, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) collectively provides a service that represents the Canadian performing rights with respect to composers and publishers of music. Its website provides information about copyright as well as other matters that may be of interest. Examples of associations that may provide resources for authors are The Writers Union of Canada and the Canadian Authors Association.
At the international level, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has a website that includes an extensive collection of international materials including treaties and laws. Under its About IP tab, you will find a section specifically on Copyright.
Alberta Law Libraries can help
At Alberta Law Libraries, we are legal information experts who can help you find resources and show you how to do legal research. Alberta Law Libraries is a network of libraries with services and materials focused on legal materials and research. Our website can help guide you through our collection and point you to additional sites that may be helpful in your research. Check out our Intellectual Property Research Guide (PDF) for a starting point to researching copyright law. Check the Find Us tab for our locations and hours.