04 June 2008

1.0 Copyright Protection and Formalities

1.1 Question: Do I need a lawyer to register a copyright?
Answer: No, registration in Canada or the U.S. is fairly straightforward. Visit the Canadian Copyright Office (cipo.gc.ca) or the U.S. Copyright Office (www.copyright.gov) for registration information, forms and fees. Note that registration is not required in most countries, including Canada and the U.S., however it can provide additional copyright protection than that in unregistered works, and advantages should you ever have to initiate a legal action for copyright infringement. (2006-2)

1.2 Question: I have an idea for a television show which I would like to submit to a TV producer. If they like my idea, are they obligated to hire me to write the show or may they hire a different writer?
Answer: Generally, a TV producer will only accept your idea submission from an agent or lawyer, and the producer will ask you to sign a release form. The release will state that you are submitting your idea with no obligation and that it is possible that ideas similar to yours are already in the works by the producer and that the producer is under no obligation to you. So, yes, the producer may create and develop a show similar to your idea, using a different writer. (2006-4)

1.3 Question: On December 1, 1975, I composed a song on my piano with lyrics. On December 1, 2007, I put the lyrics and music on paper. From what date do I have copyright protection?
Answer: Automatic copyright protection begins in most countries from the time the work is first “fixed” in some manner. This would include recording a song in analogue or digital form, and writing it down on paper. In this situation, the copyright protection began on December 1, 2007. (2007-4)


Library Lover said...

Question for the blog:
A prof assoc of which I am a member, developed a glossary of our particular terms using two published (grey lit, not commercial pub) sources. Various volunteers added new ones, edited the originals, and even translated some into French. I'm on the committee and during our discussion about putting this on the assoc website, the notion of copyright came up. Shocked, I queried why? How can we copyright something we don't own, have 'borrowed' heavily w/out keeping track, edited, and are not going to sell anywhere? Am I correct in saying they have no claim to copyright the French version much less the whole thing?

Copyrightlaws.com said...

Hi Library Lover, there may be two copyright issues here. First, the using of content owned by someone else. Depending on how much and what part of content you used of others, you may or may not need permission to copy, adapt and translate that content. The 2nd issue is the protection of your own work -- you can have a new work using parts of other works and adding to it and adapting it, but that is a question of fact. To read more on this issue, you may want to read up on the protection of databases in your own country.

Jimmy Anonymous said...


If I copyright 5 song lyrics in a collection (1 copyright form) rather than separately (5 forms), am I less protected? If someone infringes using one song but not all five, are they only 1/5th as liable because they didn't infringe on all that was copyrighted?

Similarly, if I had recordings of 10 different songs, would it be better to submit 10 discs of 1 song w/ 10 forms instead of 1 disc of 10 songs and one form?

How does this differ from books? If there's a book w/ ten chapters and the book is copyrighted as a whole, if someone infringes on a part of the book--how is liability determined? Should they/do people copyright chapters?

Thank you.

Copyrightlaws.com said...

Hi Jimmy, you have the same copyright protection no matter how you register the work. In fact, in Canada and the US, you are automatically protected by copyright once the work is in a fixed form - whether or not you register. Registration has advantages if you have to sue for copyright infringement. Registering a collection or group of works will save you money in terms of registration fees.