What materials are protected by copyright?

Copyright protection exists as soon as a work is created in a fixed form. A fact or idea is not subject to copyright protection, but the expression of the fact or idea is protected. 

Copyright is a broad category that protects creators of:

  • Literary, dramatic, artistic, musical works (e.g. book, letter, e-mail, blog, computer program, compilation, government publication, script, play, film, painting, sculpture, photograph, map, architectural drawing, sheet music, compositions, music video, etc.)
  • Sound recording (e.g. lectures, animal sounds, nature sounds, music, audio book, etc.)
  • Performances (e.g. dancing, singing, acting, etc.)
  • Communication signals (e.g. pay-per-view, radio, satellite, broadcasts, etc.)

Multiple copyrights may exist within one work. For example, a musical work may consist of the song (lyrics and music) and the recording of the song. In this case, the song and the recording would be considered two different works and may be protected by copyright as a musical work and sound recording. The lyrics may also be categorized as a literary work. Additionally, a live performance of this song by an artist could also be protected as a performance.

Copyright in most types of works, when used in Canada, lasts for the life of the creator plus 70 years.* After that time, copyright expires and the work enters the public domain; works no longer under copyright can be freely used in any way by anyone, without permission.

*Due to a change in copyright term introduced in 2022, all works whose creators died in 1971 or earlier are no longer protected by copyright.