Copyright is Automatic
In Canada, any original work or performance, regardless of its merit, is automatically protected by copyright once it is in a fixed form. You do not need to register a work in order for it to be protected, although you can still do so. Other means of protecting your work are the use of copyright notices and, for digital works, the application of technological protection measures (TPMs or digital locks) that restrict access or the ability to download or copy from a file.
A copyright owner who receives a request from someone wanting to copy, distribute or adapt their work may grant the request for free, for a fee, subject to certain conditions, or refuse the request altogether. Co-owners or co-creators of a work will need consent from each owner or creator before granting a request. If copyright to a work is owned by a publisher or other third party, refer the request to that copyright owner.
Faculty Lectures and Course Materials
As the creator of the “performance“ that is your lecture, you have the copyright on the content. It does not become a copyright issue until the lecture is fixed in some tangible form, is communicated or broadcasted. The copyright in a recording of your lecture would belong to you. The interpretive class notes of a student would not, assuming they were not a verbatim record. The ideas in your lecture are not protected by copyright, but the fixation of the performance of the lecture would be.
A faculty member owns the copyright in course notes, PowerPoints and other unpublished material that are created and used for their courses, regardless of on what platform they are shared. Permission would be required for another instructor to use the materials or for students to post such materials on public websites.
Every scholar wishes to see his or her research published in a journal of note. Journals enhance scholarship by selecting submissions, managing the peer review process and providing improvements through editing. They have served to disseminate scholarly knowledge.
The landscape of scholarly publishing has changed over the last number of years. Journals, which were originally produced as the work of scholarly societies and scholarly presses, have increasingly become the product of major publishers. This has created price inflation for journals, subscriptions for which represent an ever-growing proportion of university library budgets. The record of scholarly research (often produced with the support of universities and government) is sold back to universities at a considerable premium. Pay walls hamper access to these works and the opportunity to read and cite them.
Retaining Rights when Publishing
Copyright is often assigned to a publisher as part of a publication agreement. This presents particular issues for the creators of scholarly works, whose main interest is the dissemination of knowledge and the contribution to scholarly discussion. A conventional publishing agreement will restrict your ability to distribute a copy of your own work, including at conferences or even in your own classes without the permission of the publisher and the payment of a royalty.
Creators should read the publisher contract carefully and seek legal advice if necessary. When negotiating an agreement, it is in the creator's best interest to retain some or all of the following:
- self-archiving privileges, which allow (among other things) the creator to post the work to an institutional repository, such as RO@M, the MacEwan University institutional repository.
- copyright (the creator may choose to grant the publisher the right of first publication only)
- the right to use, copy and distribute a work for educational or research purposes
- the right to modify, adapt, update, or create derivative works.
The following resources may be helpful to authors/creators negotiating a publishing contract:
- SHERPA/RoMEO provides information about publisher copyright policies, including a summary of what rights authors retain.
- Greater Reach for Your Research examines the use of digital repositories to give access to research.
- The SPARC Canadian Author's Addendum to Publication Agreement and Using the SPARC Canadian Authors' Addendum are tools available for authors seeking a balanced agreement with a publisher. This agreement, which can be appended to a standard publisher agreement, specifies that self-archiving privileges and copyright are retained by the author.
- The Copyright Toolbox assists authors and publishers achieve a copyright balance. Sample wording is provided for those wanting to amend a standard licence.
- The Scholar's Copyright Addendum Engine offers several options in preparing a copyright agreement addendum that ensures retention of some rights.
- MIT's Your Copyright: Increase the Impact of Your Research has information about managing copyrights specific to faculty and researchers.
- The University of California's Office of Scholarly Communication provides sample wording for a balanced publication contract.
- Author Rights, Tout de Suite (2008) Author Rights, Tout de Suite is designed to give journal article authors a quick introduction to key aspects of author's rights and to foster further exploration of this topic through liberal use of relevant references to online documents and links to pertinent websites.
Other useful resources:
- Creative Commons Canada allows Canadian authors to choose a specific type of licence for their work while Creative Commons offers options to U.S. authors. Authors may choose to retain full copyright, to retain some rights or to relinquish copyright completely.
- iCopyright is a service for content creators, content users, publishers and others.
- Access Copyright includes information for creators about registering their work and receiving royalties for its reproduction.
Scott Day, Copyright Specialist, for inquiries about publishing and copyright.
Parts of this section were adapted from the University of Manitoba copyright website under a Creative Commons licence.