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Copyright: WHAT IS / WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

Douglas College Copyright Guide

WHAT IS PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

Copyright law protects all original literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works; each of these general categories covers a wide range of creations including works posted on the Internet. Specific examples of works protected by copyright are listed in this Government of Canada guide: What types of works are protected?

REQUIREMENTS FOR COPYRIGHT PROTECTION

Copyright protection is automatic once a work comes into existence; registration is not required.

 Fixation and originality are important requisites for copyright protection. A work must be in a fixed format to be copyrighted. It can be produced onto any media (print, digital) to meet the fixation requirement. 

 The standard for originality is relatively low; copyright protects different types of works from ordinary  (technical manuals) to innovative (art).  Originality is not defined in the Copyright Act, but guidelines have developed through case law.

 To classified as original, a work must

  • Originate from the author
  • Not be a copy of another work
  • Be a product of the author's independent skill and effort (as opposed to the product of an automated arrangement)

WHAT IS NOT PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

Ideas and facts are not protected by copyright. – it is the tangible expression of facts and ideas that copyright law protects.

The Copyright Act only protects works that are considered to be substantial. Subsequently, titles*, slogans, names, and short word combinations are not generally eligible for copyright protection. However these items might be registered as trademarks.

*Original and distinctive titles might be protected as part of the entire work

EXAMPLES

Not Protected by Copyright

Protected by Copyright

An idea for a plot

A novel, manuscript, movie ....(the expression of the plot)

Population data

A graphic that contains the data

Facts

A newspaper article containing those facts (the expression of those facts)

 

 For more examples see About Copyright 

COPYING INSUBSTANTIAL AMOUNTS OF A WORK

Copying an insubstantial amount of a work is permitted without asking for permission or paying royalties. Judging the difference between substantial / insubstantial  copying can be difficult.  A “substantial amount”  is not defined in the Copyright Act. A key point is that the amount copied (quantity) , is only one component in the analysis.  Here are other  factors that a court would consider.

Value of what is copied –  An effective illustration is from the movie Gone with the Wind.  A court ruled that  the use of “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn”  - 8 words out of the entire movie – was copyright infringement. Another example would be a company's mission statement from their annual report, or website.

The amount copied in relation to the entire work. A sentence might be considered insubstantial if copied from a novel. In contrast a line from a poem, (the same amount of text), might be judged as infringment.

 Also review the Douglas College Fair Dealing Policy