Canadian Copyright Act

Video credit:CAUT Responds to Canadian Copyright Modernization Legislation – posted by CAUT | ACPPU on YouTube



The current version of the Canadian Copyright Act was passed on June 29, 2012. The changes implemented were intended to reflect the complexities of copyright in the digital era. These changes have been met with a lot of controversy and have sparked debate across the country. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa has a blog dedicated to copyright legislation in Canada and gives an interesting insider perspective to the changes.  

In response to the Copyright Modernization Act, also known as Bill C-11, the director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers released a short video explaining some of the key successes and failures of the new copyright act. The concept of a “digital lock”  is new in Canadian copyright. This pertains to legally downloaded material as well as physically purchased goods. A digital lock is part of digital rights management designed to protect the creators of digital media. Many argue that these protections are too strong and hurt others who wish to reference these works.

Conversely, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) believes that the new Copyright Act isn’t strict enough with its definition of fair dealing for educational use. The AAP, suggests that Canada drastically change its copyright legislation or be placed on the US Trade Representative watch list. The argument misuse of “educational use” is hurting US authors and publishers. They say that Canada’s Copyright Modernization Act of 2012, is too undefined and lacks the parameters to prevent copyright abuse. 

On July 1, 2020, the Copyright Act was updated with Bill C-4 to fulfill Canada’s obligations under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). The revisions to the Copyright Act modified the copyright duration for works without identified authors, extending the term to either 75 years after publication or 100 years after creation, whichever is sooner. The copyright for cinematographic works and sound recordings, with the update, now lasts for 70 years from when they’re made. If they’re published during this time, copyright lasts until either 75 years after first publication or 100 years after creation. Furthermore, the Act makes it illegal to remove or change electronic rights information on sound recordings, intending to hide copyright infringement or hurt royalty rights. Punishment includes fines or up to 5 years in prison. 


Think before you ink

As a student, copyright is important to be aware of as at it impacts the resources you can access in the classroom, and also influences what information and media you can use in your own work. UBC’s Copyright Office has numerous resources to help students navigate the muddled world of copyright.  and their “Why Should I Care” section outlines exactly why copyright is important to students.

Remember these facts:

  • A work does not need the copyright symbol to be protected by copyright
  • According to the Canadian Copyright Act, digital locks cannot be circumnavigated legally for any purpose. This includes educational reasons.
  • Creative Commons works are a great resource for students, however different CC licences permit different uses. To learn more visit our page on Creative Commons.
  • Copyright aims to protect creator’s rights, so remember that anything you create and publish is also protected by copyright and should not be used by others in ways you did not authorize.


The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective.  Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.

  • How do you think the current Canadian copyright law can be improved?
  • Do you consider copyright when performing school work or publishing things online?

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