Know Your Rights: Copyright in Canada in the era of COVID-19 and beyond.

AuthorRyckman, Julia

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures hit Canada's arts communities early, hard and fast. Even when present measures ease up, the return of performing artists to the stage looks to be a slow one.

Some creators may use this time in isolation to craft new works, while others may find it impossible to do so while trying to make ends meet and take care of their health and loved ones. Others are finding different approaches to making a living with their talents, such as creating original online content and live streaming performances on social media. With all norms interrupted and innovations sure to emerge, now is as good a time as ever to hone up on the protection copyright laws provide to creators.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is entirely a statutory right, granted by the Copyright Act of Canada (the "Act"). This means that copyright protection is limited to what is specifically provided for by the Act.

At its essence, copyright provides economic rights which prevent the unauthorized use or reproduction of original literary (including computer programs), artistic, dramatic or musical works. Copyright also provides a separate form of protection, colloquially known as neighbouring rights, to:

* the maker of any sound recording (i.e. record label);

* any performer whose performance of an artistic, dramatic or musical work is captured in that sound recording; and

* the broadcaster in its signal (i.e. radio waves).

Here's the thing: copyright is not just one thing - it is bundles of rights, not necessarily held by one person. There are different sets of rights for different things, which may be owned by different parties. For example, A might write a song that B performs on a sound recording made by C, which D then broadcasts. All of A, B, C and D have different rights, which may be retained by them, or sold or granted to others.

Economic Rights

The basic economic right provided by the Act is the exclusive right to:

* produce or reproduce a work, or a substantial part of it, in any material form;

* perform the work, or a substantial part of it, in public; and,

* publish the work, or any substantial part of it.

This economic right includes, for example, the exclusive right to:

* convert a dramatic work to another form, such as a novel, or vice versa;

* make a sound recording or film of a literary, dramatic or musical work;

* communicate the work to the public;

* exhibit the work;

* translate the work;

* sell a tangible work; and

* authorize someone to do any of the above.

Neighbouring Rights

Neighbouring rights provide performers certain exclusive rights, including the right to "fix" a live performance (i.e. record it) or have the performance broadcast, streamed, etc., or authorize...

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