This section provides a basic introduction to Canadian copyright law. For specialized information, please visit the For Instructors, For Students, For Staff, and For Creators sections of the website.

Use of copyright-protected materials at Langara is governed by the Canadian Copyright Act, judicial precedent, international treaties, and license agreements between Langara and content providers. These form the foundation of Langara's copyright policies and directives.

Copyright exists as soon as a work is fixed in print or digital format. It protects the expression of an idea, rather than the idea itself, and applies to all original:

  • Literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (e.g. books, plays, films, photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, etc.)

  • Sound recordings (e.g. lectures, music)

  • Performances (e.g. dance, song, or theatrical performance)

  • Communications (e.g. radio, broadcasts)

Yes. A work is protected by copyright as soon as it is fixed in physical or digital format.
The copyright symbol we are accustomed to seeing (©) is a visual reminder that a work is protected by copyright. Creators may register copyright with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office; this is optional, but serves as proof of ownership if needed.

For more information, see the For Creators section.

Copyright in Canada lasts for the life of the creator +50 years (+70 years for sound recordings). When copyright expires, works enter the public domain (see the next FAQ for details).

Unless there is clear indication that a work you would like to use is in the public domain, the safest approach is to assume it is protected by copyright.

When copyright expires, a work enters the public domain and can be used freely without payment or permission from the copyright owner.

Copyright owners may also choose to waive their rights and dedicate a work to the public domain.

For information on how to locate works in the public domain, see the Alternatives Guide.

Copyright infringement occurs when a person does something with a copyright-protected work that only the copyright owner is entitled to do, and does so without the copyright owner's permission.

When a person infringes copyright, they are liable to pay the copyright owner for damages suffered due to the infringement. Under the Copyright Act, copyright owners may be awarded statutory damages of $500 to $20,000 for commerical infringement and $100 to $5,000 for non-commercial infringement. Those engaged in wide-scale, for-profit infringement may also be subject to criminal penalties.

Students, staff, and faculty at Langara have an individual responsibility to act in accordance with the Copyright Act and the College's copyright policies and directives. The Copyright Office is here to help; for assistance, please contact us.

Reference: Copyright Act, Sections 34 to 40

Canada is a signatory of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, an international treaty establishing baseline standards for treatment of copyright-protected works. One condition of the treaty is "national treatment." This means that all 171 Berne signatory countries treat works from other countries as they would their own.

So, if you are using a work published in the United States here in Canada, Canadian copyright law applies.