Copyright Duration

Generally copyright exists for fifty years after the death of the author. After that, the work enters the public domain. Works that are part of the public domain are not legally protected by copyright and can therefore be used or exploited without the consent of the owner. However, there are a few exceptions depending on the type of work involved:

  • Joint authorship: A collaborative work is defined as a work for which the contribution of each co-author is seen an essential component of the whole. The work is perceived as a whole and consequently, is protected by a single copyright. In the case of a work that has more than one author, the term will be the date the last author dies plus 50 years following the end of that calendar year.
  • Collective work: The particularity of a collective work is that it is comprised of individual works assembled together, but each existing on its own, as for example a collection of poetry. Consequently, each part is copyrighted separately and the protection will expire, according to the general rule, 50 years after the author dies. The chosen texts and how they are assembled together are also considered as a work protected by copyright. This protection will expire 50 years after the person who chose and assembled the texts dies.
  • Work from an unknown author: The protection given to this type of work consists of whichever is the earlier of: the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication of the work plus 50 years or the remainder of the calendar year of the making of the work plus 75 years. However, if the identity of the author is known during that time, the general rule applies, that is to say 50 years after the author dies.
  • Photography: The owner of the original copyright of a photograph is the owner of the original negative. This person can be the photograph or the person who ordered the picture to be taken, for example, a newspaper editor. If the author is a person or an entity (for example, a company) controlled essentially by a single person, the general rule applies, that is to say 50 years after the author dies. However, if the copyright owner is an entity like a company, the duration of the protection will be restricted to 50 years after the original picture was taken.
  • Non-fictional film work: To be part of this category, the work must be made without scenario or production. For example, a filmmaker who captures a live event could enter this category. The duration of the protection for this kind of film work consists of whichever is the earlier of: the remainder of the calendar year of the first publication of the work plus 50 years or the remainder of the calendar year of the making of the work if it was not published before the end of that period.
  • Sound recordings: The copyright given to the creators of sound recordings lasts for 50 years after the end of the calendar year of the first fixation of the sound recording.
  • Performer’s performances: The copyright lasts for 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the performance is first fixed or, if it is not fixed, 50 years after it is performed. However, the duration of the protection can be modified through a contract.
  • Communication signals: Communication signals are radio waves used by radio broadcasters to broadcast their content. The copyright given to the broadcasters on their communication signals lasts for 50 years after the end of the calendar year in which the signal was broadcast.
  • Works of Crown copyrights: The government owns the copyright of works “prepared or published by, under the leadership of or monitored by Her Majesty or a ministry of the government of Canada”, unless it is agreed otherwise with the author of the work. Copyright in these works lasts for the remainder of the calendar year in which the work was first published, and for 50 years after that.