What is Copyright?

Copyright is the right to make a copy of something you created yourself, including published and unpublished writings, photographs, sound recordings and audio-visual recordings. The creator or author of a work owns the copyright and they have the right to expect payment when someone else makes a copy of their creation.

Can Copyright Ownership be Transferred?

Yes. For example, donors can transfer the ownership of their copyright to the City of Toronto when they donate records to the Archives. Many donors, however, keep ownership of their copyright.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

Copyright lasts for different periods of time for different kinds of materials, and depending on whether or not the material was ever published. The Copyright Guideline provides details.

What Does “Research and Private Study” Mean?

The Copyright Act allows archives and libraries, under certain conditions, to provide researchers with a single copy of certain works for research or private study without the permission of the copyright owner.

What Does “Life of Author + 50” Mean?

This is a short-form expression to indicate that the term of the copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author or creator, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author died, and a further period of fifty years following the end of that calendar year.

What Does “Fair Dealing” Mean?

The Copyright Act includes a fair dealing exception. The Act says that it is not an infringement of copyright to deal ‘fairly’ with a work for the purposes of research, private study, criticism, review, or news reporting. Unfortunately, the Act does not define what is ‘fair.’ A court would look at factors such as:

  • the quantity of the work copied
  • the nature of the work copied
  • how the copy was used
  • the value of what was copied, and
  • whether what was copied interferes with the sale of the original work

Copyright Guidelines for Different Types of Material

Type of Material Copyright Holder Term of Copyright Permitted Exceptions
Books & published reports (see note below) Author Life of author + 50 Fair dealing
Pamphlets Author Life of author + 50 Fair dealing
Article in a periodical more than one year old Author if a freelance writer (unless there is an agreement transferring copyright to the periodical); the periodical if the writer was one of its employees Life of author + 50 i) A single copy of an article for research or private study, provided that records are kept.

ii) Fair dealing

Article in a periodical less than one year old Author if a freelance writer (unless there is an agreement transferring copyright to the periodical); the periodical if the writer was one of its employees Life of author + 50 Fair dealing
Newspaper articles or clippings more than one year old Author if a freelance writer (unless there is an agreement transferring copyright to the newspaper); the newspaper if the writer was one of its employees Life of author + 50 i) A single copy of an article for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Newspaper articles or clippings articles less than one year old Author if a freelance writer (unless there is an agreement transferring copyright to the newspaper); the newspaper if the writer was one of its employees Life of author + 50 Fair dealing
Article in a scholarly, scientific, or technical periodical Author if a freelancer (unless there is an agreement transferring copyright to the periodical); the periodical if the writer was one of its employees Life of author + 50 i) A single copy of an article for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

City Directories Publisher Life of author + 50 Fair dealing

Copyright Act Category: Literary Works

Note: a book composed mainly of photographs or maps would be considered an artistic work, a book of plays a dramatic work, and a book of sheet music a musical work.

City Directories are a compilation within the Literary Works category.

Type of Material Copyright Holder Term of Copyright Permitted Exceptions
Unpublished records of the City of Toronto or its predecessors, e.g., letters, memos, reports, etc. City if the author was one of its employees; otherwise copyright holder is the author of each work Life of author + 50

Note: There is a complicated series of term rules for unpublished works whose authors died on or before 31 Dec. 1998. See National Archives Staff Guide to Copyright.

i) A single copy of a work for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Note that lawyers disagree on whether fair dealing applies to unpublished works

Unpublished private manuscripts, e.g., letters, diaries, memoirs

and

Unpublished dissertations, theses, essays

Author of each work Life of author + 50

Note: There is a complicated series of term rules for unpublished works whose authors died on or before 31 Dec. 1998. See National Archives Staff Guide to Copyright.

i) A single copy of a work for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Note that lawyers disagree on whether fair dealing applies to unpublished works

Copyright Act Category: Literary Works

Type of Material Copyright Holder Term of Copyright Permitted Exceptions
Published maps and plans Employer if the author was one of its employees; otherwise copyright holder is the author Life of author + 50 Fair dealing
Unpublished maps and plans Employer if the author was one of its employees; otherwise copyright holder is the author Life of author + 50 i) A single copy of a work for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Note that lawyers disagree on whether fair dealing applies to unpublished works

Copyright Act Category: Artistic Works

The ‘author’ of a photograph is deemed to be the person or corporation who owned the initial negative or (in the case of digital photography where there is no negative) the initial photograph at the time the photograph was made.

To calculate the term of copyright in photographs, you must determine who the ‘author’ is, i.e., who owned the initial negative or photograph. If the ‘author’ is a natural person, the term is the life of that person plus 50 years. If the ‘author’ is a corporation or someone working on commission, various scenarios apply (see chart below).

Type of Material Copyright Holder Term of Copyright Permitted Exceptions
Photographs taken on/before 31 Dec. 1948 In public domain Expired N/A
Photographs taken between 1 Jan. 1949 and 31 Dec. 1961 whose author was a  corporation in which the majority of voting shares are owned by a natural person who is the author of the photograph In public domain Expired N/A
Photographs taken between 1 Jan. 1962 and 6 Nov. 2012 whose author was a  corporation in which the majority of voting shares are widely held Copyright owner is the photographer, unless the photographer was an employee of the corporation doing their job, or the work was commissioned. Life of ‘author’ (photographer) + 50 Fair dealing
Commissioned photographs taken between 1949 and Nov. 6, 2012 Copyright owner is the person who commissioned the photograph. Life of ‘author’ (photographer) + 50 Fair dealing
Commissioned photographs taken after Nov. 7, 2012 Copyright owner is the photographer. Life of ‘author’ (photographer) + 50 Person who commissioned the photograph can use it for non-commercial purposes.
Photographs where photographer is unknown The shorter of

i)publication + 50

or

ii) Creation + 75

 All other photographs taken on/after 1 Jan. 1949 Owner of initial negative at the time the photograph was made

or

Employer if made in the course of employment.

 Life of ‘author’ + 50  Fair dealing

Copyright Act Category: Artistic Works

The ‘maker’ of a sound recording is defined as the person who undertakes the arrangements necessary for the fixation of the sounds. Such arrangements would include entering into contracts with performers, as well as financial and technical arrangements.

Note that, depending on the content, a sound recording may contain more than one copyright. For example, a recording of someone singing a song could include a copyright in the song (a musical work), a copyright in the performance, and a copyright in the sound recording itself.

Type of Material Copyright Holder Term of Copyright Permitted Exceptions
Sound recordings, i.e., any recording of sounds fixed in any material form (e.g., audiotapes, vinyl disks, CDs) Maker First fixation + 50 years Fair dealing
Oral Histories Maker (most likely the interviewer unless there is an agreement to the contrary) First fixation + 50 years Fair dealing

Copyright Act Category: Sound Recordings

The author of a cinematographic work is the person by whom the arrangements necessary for the making of the work are undertaken.

Type of Material Copyright Holder Term of Copyright Permitted Exceptions
Cinematographic works made on or after 1 January 1999 Author Life of author + 50 i) A single copy of an unpublished work can be made for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Cinematographic works made between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1998. Author Depends on whether the work is published or unpublished, and the death date of the author. See chart in the National Archives Staff Guide to Copyright. i) A single copy of an unpublished work can be made for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Cinematographic works made before 1 January 1994 which have original character Author Depends on whether the work is published or unpublished, and the death date of the author. See chart in the National Archives Staff Guide to Copyright. i) A single copy of an unpublished work can be made for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Cinematographic works made before 1 January 1994 which do not have original character are protected as photographs Owner of initial negative If published within 50 years of making, term is year of publication + 50

or

If unpublished, term is year of making + 50

i) A single copy of an unpublished work can be made for research or private study, provided that records are kept

ii) Fair dealing

Copyright Act Category: Cinematographic Works (a sub-category of Dramatic Works)