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What Canadian businesses need to know about copyright

What is Copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection. Copyright gives automatic rights to creators over their original work, such as the sole right to reproduce it or to perform the work in public. Copyright law protects a wide range of works, including, for example, books, journals, newspapers, plays, videos, films, paintings, drawings and songs.

Canada's Copyright Laws

In Canada, the Copyright Act sets out the rights of copyright holders. Since the copyright holder has the sole right to, among other things, produce, reproduce, perform or publish any translation of the work, and to authorize those acts, permission from the copyright holder is often needed before any of those uses can be made. It is an infringement of copyright to reproduce all or any substantial part of a copyright-protected work without permission of the copyright holder, unless the copying is otherwise allowed under the Copyright Act.

Fair Dealing

Within Canada’s Copyright Act there are instances where permission is not required, such as when the use is fair dealing. To qualify as fair dealing, your use must pass a two-step test that has been outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada. The burden of proof is on the user to assess and demonstrate, before copying, that the usage constitutes fair dealing. The first in the two-step test is identifying the category of use from a list of eight qualifying uses – from there, you refer to six factors to help you assess the fairness of the dealing (including, among other things, what alternative options may have been available, and the possible effect on the market of the work).

When to Clear Copyright

In an age where information sharing is so commonplace and simple, understanding when copyright permissions can be required under Canada’s copyright laws is more important than ever. In the business world, information sharing that takes place on a regular basis includes things like electronically sending articles to colleagues or distributing journal articles or other reference materials as part of your sales and/or marketing processes. When permission is not obtained, the use could be infringing and expose an individual or organization to potentially significant financial liability.

Below are some more specific examples where Canadian businesses can be required to obtain permission.

  • Placing reference material (i.e., articles, publications, policies or standards) on a company intranet site
  • Circulating resources to develop your employees' skills and knowledge
  • Providing copies of articles or other information resources that are not created and owned by your organization to potential customers as part of your sales and/or marketing processes
  • Distributing photocopies of materials to stakeholders or at conferences
  • Photocopying an article from a paid subscription and distributing the copies to colleagues

If you have questions about copyright clearance relating to your business, please do not hesitate to contact us – we are more than happy to help. 

Obtaining Copyright Permissions

About Access Copyright

Access Copyright is a national, not-for-profit organization that helps Canadian businesses simplify addressing copyright. Our goal is to help with your copyright permission needs for published works and offer licensing options that support the unique content needs of different industries and organizations. Access Copyright is a collective voice of creators and publishers in Canada and provides customized annual and pay-per-use licensing options for clearing copyright, both of which offer access to permissions for over 100 million published works.

Quiz: Is Licensing Right for You?

Want to understand where your organization may need copyright clearance? Take our quick quiz to see where permissions may be required in your work processes. 

Does your organization have an active intranet or other central electronic resource where material may be posted and accessed by employees?

Are press clippings, articles, content from a media monitoring agency, or any other source, at any time shared among individual colleagues, departments, or your entire organization?

Does your organization maintain a library of publications for reference or information?

Does your organization have sales and marketing processes that involve sharing published works (such as journal articles, efficacy studies, or different publications) with existing or prospective customers?

Does your communications team keep employees, members, your board and/or other stakeholders informed on industry developments via electronic newsletters?

Are employees receiving relevant industry news through email, print handouts, company intranet or other means to ensure they are kept informed?  

If you answered yes to any of these questions, we can help. Contact us to discover how.

Copyright Clearance Options

Ensuring your communication and information sharing practices are in line with Canadian copyright laws is important, but what’s the best route for your organization to obtain copyright clearance on the publications you are sharing, copying and distributing? Access Copyright offers a blanket annual licence as well as a pay-per-use transactional licence, providing the flexibility to choose the permission route that best suits your unique content-use needs. 

Annual Licensing

Access Copyright’s annual licence is a blanket coverage licence that provides organization-wide, pre-cleared permissions for uses of over 100 million published titles in the Access Copyright repertoire. The pre-authorized copyright clearance offered through annual licence coverage extends to all employees in an organization – giving freedom and flexibility to freely use content across all divisions of the business, as needed, without having to seek permission for each use of published materials.  

Licensees also benefit from legal protection through indemnification from Access Copyright, offering protection for any liability or loss that results from a claim made for copying within the licence terms and conditions.

Transactional Licensing

The transactional licence is a pay-per-use licence, which allows organizations to copy any work(s) within the Access Copyright repertoire where a one-time-use copyright clearance is required. Access Copyright can grant copyright permissions to corporate customers on all titles within the repertoire of over 100 million published titles – ranging from textbooks, articles, journals, to poetry. With the ability to grant permissions for a wide range of publications, Access Copyright functions as a full-service provider for your one-time copyright clearance needs.