Copyright | The Canadian Encyclopedia



Copyright ProperCopyright. The legal protection given to creators of literary, musical, and artistic works.


Copyright Proper
Copyright. The legal protection given to creators of literary, musical, and artistic works.

The owner of the copyright for a particular literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic work has the sole right to reproduce such a work or any substantial part of it in any form, to translate the work, and to perform it or authorize the performance of it in public. The right to reproduce includes the right to make copies of notated music by means of handwriting, printing, photocopying, photography, or other process. While registration is not a requisite of copyright protection, a composer, arranger, or publisher of music may register, for a fee, a work with the Copyright Office of Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada, in Ottawa. For international protection, however, it is recommended to place a c (for 'copyright') inside a small circle (©) at the bottom of the first page of music, followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year.

If a piece is published, the publisher usually acquires the copyright from the composer in return for the payment of a royalty on each copy sold. Canadian publishers (and self-publishing composers) are obliged to deposit copies of each work immediately after publication in the National Library of Canada (and also, in the province of Quebec, in the BN du Q). The proof-of-publication date indicated by deposit receipts, the listing in the current bibliographies Canadiana and Bibliographie du Québec, and the accessibility to library patrons are obvious benefits of 'legal deposit'. The copyright on a published work extends for 50 years after the composer's death, at which time the composition enters the 'public domain,' ie, it no longer enjoys protection. There are special provisions for works of joint authorship and anonymous or pseudonymous works.

US copyright law differs from Canadian law in many ways. Consideration may be given to registration of copyright with the Copyright Office, Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Performing Rights

Small rights
The Canadian Copyright Act guarantees to the copyright owner the sole right to authorize public performances, as do the copyright acts of virtually all other developed countries. These rights are divided into two basic categories, small rights and grand rights.

Small rights cover performances of all musical works unaccompanied by stage action (as opposed to grand rights, which cover performances of large or 'theatrical' works). In order to administer small rights effectively in view of the wide diversification of methods of performance throughout the world, the creators of musical works and their publishers have established special organizations which operate as non-profit collectives for the administration of their rights. These 'performing rights societies,' in Canada, SOCAN - Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada/Société canadienne des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique (formerly CAPAC and PRO Canada) - collects revenue for the public performances and cinema, radio, and TV performances of their members' music; they distribute this revenue on the basis of performance frequency and other criteria. Revenues are also collected through the licensing of restaurants, hotels, concert halls, dance halls, other places of entertainment, broadcasting stations, cinemas, etc. Annually, for the various types of performance, SOCAN proposes tariffs which must be approved by the Copyright Board. Certain exemptions are allowed for performances for educational, religious, and charitable purposes, as interpreted by the courts.

Mechanical and Synchronization Rights

These terms relate to the sole right to authorize or make any device by which copyright musical works may be performed mechanically. Any person or company wishing to produce a recording of such music must obtain a licence from the owner authorizing the mechanical reproduction. The rate is negotiable.

Permission from the copyright owner also must be obtained for the synchronization right, ie, the right to use recorded music protected by copyright in conjunction with a visual medium. The fees vary according to the length of the music and other factors.

In 1976 the CMPA set up the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency (Agence canadienne des droits de réproduction musicaux limitée) to administer mechanical and synchronization rights. Most copyright musical works could be cleared through this organization thereafter.

International Conventions

Canada is signatory to two international copyright agreements, the Berne Convention (Rome revision of 1928) and the Universal Copyright Convention (1952). Nearly all countries have subscribed to one or the other, and many, including Canada, to both. Basically each subscribing country undertakes to apply its national copyright laws to the nationals of each other signatory country.

As a result of these two conventions authors are assured of worldwide protection and, inasmuch as the domestic copyright laws of most countries are similar in nature, the creative person is assured of adequate protection on a worldwide scale. Most countries observe a term of copyright for the life of the composer and 50 years following his death.

Historical Notes

Since British statutory copyright law goes back to 1710, it is not surprising to find that as early as 1832 the Provincial Statutes of Lower-Canada provided that authors and composers (and their executors, administrators, and legal assigns) had the sole right to print, reprint, publish, and sell their works for a term of 28 years. In 1841 this statute was extended to Upper Canada. In the following year Canadian copyright was extended to residents of the United Kingdom, provided that their works were printed and published in Canada; but it was not until 1850 that Canada imposed a duty on the import, from the USA or continental Europe, of reprints of British copyrights. The registration of a Canadian publication through deposit in the Office of the Registrar of the lower and upper provinces and in the Legislative Library, together with a statement of copyright on the publication itself, was introduced in 1859. (Up to that year only seven musical publications, all hymnbooks, bore copyright notices.) According to Calderisi, Martin Lazare's 'Canadian National Air' (Nordheimer 1859) is the first sheet music with a Canadian copyright notice (many Nordheimer publications had US notices). Maria Stisted's The Rose of Ontario Waltz (Nordheimer 1868) is the first musical item - number seven - in the numerical register of copyrights. The numbering system continued to 42,462 in 1924 and included a large proportion of music. Many of the deposit copies have found their way from the Dept of Agriculture, the first to be charged with copyright administration, to the NL of C and the British Library (see Bibliography entry for information about copyright lists). The fact that only about two-thirds of Canadian music publications of the late 19th century bore copyright notices may be the result of one publisher's trust in his colleagues and in some cases of ignorance of the benefits available.

After the Berne Convention of 1886 a British publisher no longer had to print copies of his music in Canada to prevent US publishers from selling the reprints in Canada. (See Anglo-Canadian Music Company.) The revised Berne Convention of 1908 resulted in the United Kingdom copyright legislation of 1911 (which had some bearing on Canadian practice) and in similar Canadian legislation in 1921. This act protected copyright during the lifetime of an author and for 50 years after his death for published works, and copyright until publication and 50 years thereafter for unpublished works (regardless of whether the author died before publication). The 1921 legislation also introduced the provision for compulsory licensing for the mechanical reproduction of musical works on sound recordings, discussed above. In 1925 the CPRS (Canadian Performing Rights Society, CAPAC from 1945) was formed to administer the royalties of composers and/or lyricists whose works were performed in Canada. A second society, BMI Canada (later PRO Canada, then PROCAN) was established in 1940. A Société du droit de reproduction des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs au Canada (SODRAC), was established in 1985, after operating 1970-85 as SDRM Canada Inc, and the Canadian Reprography Collective was incorporated in 1988.

The Canadian Copyright Act was revised, in part, in 1988, both as part of a lengthy revision process and as a consequence of the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the USA. Additional revisions were being contemplated in 1991 to complete the process, particularly in view of the many new technologies for copying and distributing copyright property.

Grand rights

Grand rights cover performances of large works such as operas, operettas, musical shows, oratorios, or ballets. Grand rights must be obtained for each production directly from the copyright owner rather than from a performing rights society which, however, usually is authorized to administer the rights for the performance of individual excerpts from such 'large' works.

Further Reading