Succession of Copyright

Succession is the distribution of someone’s property (including copyrights) after they die. If the deceased does not allocate their property through a will, it will be distributed according to the rules of succession in the Civil Code of Quebec. The general rules are:

  • If the deceased is married, 1/3 of their succession is transferred to their spouse, with 2/3 going to other descendants
  • Descendants get equal proportions of the deceased’s succession, provided they are related in the same degree
  • If there are no descendants, 2/3 of the succession is transferred to the spouse and 1/3 to the mother, father and siblings of the deceased
  • The deceased’s succession is transferred to the state if the deceased has no spouse, descendants, parents or siblings

For the complete regime, see articles 666-683 and 696 of the Civil Code of Quebechere.

Rules Specific to Copyright

Generally in Canada, copyright expires 50 years after the death of the author. If the author of the copyright assigns it to someone else before his or her death, these rights will revert to the legal representatives of the author’s estate after 25 years from the author’s death under s. 14 of the Copyright Act . However, the author can deviate from this rule through their will.

Copyright is also divisible between successors. For example, the copyright can be given to one successor while revenues can be given to another, or divided between multiple parties.


The deceased’s estate may be liquidated to pay for his or her debts before successors take possession of it. It is possible for liquidators to take possession of a copyright (including moral rights under s. 14.2 of the Copyright Act) to pay the deceased’s creditors. For further details, see articles 808-814 of the Civil Code of Quebec here.