Category Archives: Updates to the book Canadian Copyright Law, Fourth Edition

How to Obtain Permission to Use Canadian Government Content

If you think you can use a government brochure without permission, you should first do some research to determine what’s protected under Canadian copyright law.

Government Works are Protected by Copyright in Canada

In Canada, federal government materials are protected by copyright. These government materials are called “Crown works.” Federal, provincial and territorial government materials are all protected by copyright.

Do You Need Permission to Use Canadian Government Materials?

Obtaining permission to use government works in CanadaAccording to the Reproduction of Federal Law Order, anyone may, without charge or requesting permission, reproduce enactments and consolidations of enactments of the Government of Canada, and decisions and reasons for decisions of federally constituted courts and administrative tribunals. This is provided that due diligence is exercised in ensuring the accuracy of the materials reproduced and that the reproduction is not represented as an official version.

Materials other than statutes and decisions, etc., may be reproduced without permission if for personal or public noncommercial purposes or for cost-recovery purposes. (Specifics of such use are set out on pages 270 – 271 of the book Canadian Copyright Law.)

Permission to reproduce Government of Canada works is always required if the work is being revised, adapted or translated. Until very recently, Public Works and Government Services Canada offered a streamlined procedure for obtaining permission using an Application for Copyright Clearance of Government of Canada Works and submitting it to Public Works and Government Services Canada. However, this procedure (as outlined on pages 271 – 272 of the book Canadian Copyright Law) has changed.

Procedure for Obtaining Copyright Permission from Canadian Government has Changed

Since late 2013, you must clear copyright in Canadian government materials directly from the department or agency that created the materials. The Canadian government offers this list of 31 Departmental contact points for Crown Copyright and Licensing with email addresses for each department or agency. Note that of the 31 listed names, only two have URLs for online copyright clearances:

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has an online Copyright Authorization Form.

Industry Canada provides an Apply for Crown Copyright Clearance form.

Clearing Crown or Government Works in Canada

Time will tell whether the previous “one-stop” clearance system or this new “department-specific” one is more efficient. If you have experience in clearing Canadian government works (Crown works), please share with us by posting a comment below.


Wouldn’t life be simpler if we could go to one copyright collective or organization and clear a multitude of rights? For example, it sounds attractive to have one-stop shopping for music whether we are publicly performing a song or reproducing sheet music or syncing music to dance in a music video.


Copyright collectives, SOCAN, CMRRA and SODRAC decide not to merge

Oscar Peterson Sculpture in Ottawa

In 2012, three rights societies – SOCAN, CMRRA and SODRAC – announced that they were exploring opportunities to create a more integrated approach to the management of performing and reproduction rights of music creators and publishers in Canada. (This was noted on page 337 of the book Canadian Copyright Law as footnote 4.) It was recently announced that the three organizations could not find a workable solution and that their discussions are concluding.

In a December 2013 SOCAN news release, SOCAN President Stan Meissner stated: “We at SOCAN have always believed that a simplified system of licensing for music rights in Canada makes sense and we had high hopes for the efficiencies of an alliance model.”

List of Canadian Copyright Collectives

There are many copyright collectives in Canada that represent copyright owners and provide copyright permission for the use of works. There are collectives for specific works such as literary, dramatic and artistic works. And there are collectives for specific rights in certain works. For example, the public performance right in music is administered by SOCAN. The reproduction right in music is administered by CMRRA and SODRAC. Click here for a list of Canadian copyright collectives and organizations. Chapter 14, Canadian Copyright Law, Legally Using Content, describes many Canadian collectives, who they represent and how to contact them to obtain copyright permissions.


Copyright in the Supreme Court of Canada in December 2013: Cinar v. Robinson

It’s not everyday that the Supreme Court of Canada deals with copyright issues. In late December 2013, the court issued its decision in Cinar Corporation v. Robinson.

The facts first. The educational children’s tv show, The Adventures of Robinson Curiosity, was created by Robinson. He wrote the scripts and synopses, created the characters, drew detailed sketches and storyboards, and designed promotional materials. Robinson never created a tv series based on all of his work. Cinar did create a series; Robinson sued Cinar for basing its tv series (called Robinson Sucroë) on Robinson’s work. Robinson claimed that Cinar’s show had many non-literal similarities in characters and their environment.

The Quebec Court awarded substantial damages; that decision was affirmed for the most part by the Quebec Court of Appeal. Which brings up to the Supreme Court of Canada decision. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Robinson which leads us to the conclusion that a TV series can be protected without word-for-word copying.

Highlights from Cinar v. Robinson

Supreme Court of Canada ruling on copyright infringementBelow are some highlights from the court’s decision:

  • the Canadian Copyright Act “does not give the author a monopoly over ideas or elements from the public domain, which all are free to draw upon for their own works.”
  • an infringement takes place when a substantial part of a work is used without permission. The Court stated: “As a general proposition, a substantial part of a work is a part of the work that represents a substantial portion of the author’s skill and judgment expressed therein.”
  • “A substantial part of a work is not limited to the words on the page or the brushstrokes on the canvas. The Act protects authors against both literal and non-literal copying, so long as the copied material forms a substantial part of the infringed work.”
  • the Court stated that what is important in a copyright infringement case is the extent of the similarities between the two works in questions, and not the extent of the differences.

Click here to read the Supreme Court of Canada case Cinar Corporation v. Robinson.