Copyright law in Canada provides all authors and creators with exclusive rights to reproduce, perform, and publish their work. (Government of Canada, 2022). However, copyright doesn't last forever and eventually does expire. When the term of copyright expires, the work enters the public domain and is then available for anyone to use and copy without permission or payment.
The date on which works enter the public domain is determined by the copyright laws in the country you live in. Many important works are already included in the public domain in Canada and can be found on sites such as the Internet Archive.
For example, versions of Anne of Green Gables are copyright free and available through archive.org.
(Photo: Lucy Maud Montgomery)
The general term* of copyright protection in Canada is changing from the life of the creator plus 50 years to the life of the creator plus 70 years, effective December 30, 2022. This term extension was agreed to in the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement trade treaty.
The new term matches the general copyright term in the United States and several other countries around the world. For more information, please visit our copyright guide.
This change will not alter the status of any works that had previously entered the public domain under the 50-year term rule, but it will create two rules for determining whether most works are protected by copyright or are in the public domain in Canada:
- If the creator died in 1971 or earlier, the copyright has expired and their works are now in the public domain. (50-year rule in effect prior to Dec 30th, 2022)
- If the creator died in 1972 or later, their works are protected for their life plus 70 years. (as of Dec 30th, 2022)
However, this change means that very few works will enter the public domain in Canada in the next twenty years (2023-2042). Changes like this to the copyright act can have a significant impact on higher education, and the general accessibility of works of our cultural heritage to users.
Contact email@example.com with any questions related to copyright, and visit our site for information and FAQs.
Questions about the changing copyright term shared with Leddy Library can also be shared with our Canadian colleagues at the University of Alberta who are compiling an FAQ to help navigate this change.
*Note: some specific types of works have different terms of copyright protection, such as anonymous/pseudonymous works and government works protected by Crown copyright. See sections 6 through 12 in the Copyright Act for details.
Some content adapted from Simon Fraser University and available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Blog Image "Copyright Symbols" by MikeBlogs is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Photo of Lucy Maud Montgomery "Lucy Maud Montgomery, a native of Prince Edward Island and the author of “Anne of Green Gables” / Lucy Maud Montgomery, native de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, auteure du roman Anne... la maison aux pignons verts" by BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.