Photographs and Canadian Copyright Law
Under the Canadian Copyright Act, photographs are protected in the same manner as other artistic works (such as sculptures, paintings, sketches.) The Canadian Copyright Act defines a copyright-protected photograph to include “photo-lithograph and any work expressed by any process analogous to photography.” This means that photographs made with a negative or without a negative (e.g., Polaroid photographs) are protected by copyright in Canada. And so are photographs you take with your smartphone or with your digital camera. Prior to 1 January 1994 only photographs with a negative were protected under Canadian copyright law.
Like all copyright-protected works in Canada, photographs are protected automatically once they are in a fixed form. A fixed form would be saved on your smartphone or on your camera’s memory card. Chapter 3 of Canadian Copyright Law, Fourth Edition, discusses the notion of automatic copyright protection upon the creation of the work.
Registering Copyright in Photographs in Canada
Are you required to register your images with a government office in order to obtain copyright protection in Canada? No, since copyright protection is automatic in Canada in photographs and in all eligible works, there is no need to register your photographs. However, you can register the copyright with the Canadian Copyright Office. Registering your photographs in the Canadian Copyright Office can often make it easier for those who want to use your images to find you and obtain permission to use them.
Photographers who register their works often register several images in one registration application in order to save both administrative time and money. Registration will provide you with some proof that you created the images in question and are the first copyright owner in these photographs. You can register images at any time—but best to do so earlier rather than later as that can help you provide proof of ownership of copyright in the images at the earliest date possible. Detailed information on registering your copyrights with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office is on pages 44 to 48, Canadian Copyright Law, Fourth Edition, in the section entitled: How to Register Copyright with the Canadian Government, Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).