Copyright law in Canada is one of the principal means of protecting
computer software in Canada. Canadian copyright law is governed by the
Copyright Act, which protects original literary, artistic, musical and
dramatic works. Computer software is protected in Canada as a literary
One of the significant rights granted to the owner of Canadian
copyright in a work is the exclusive right to reproduce the work, or
any substantial part of the work, in any material form whatever.
For example, the owner of copyright in a piece of computer
software has the right to stop others from making copies of the software,
or any substantial part of the software, whether the infringer makes
the infringing copy by copying the software on to a floppy disk, hard
disk, CD ROM, or by printing out a hard copy of the software.
(The owner of an authorized and legitimate copy of a piece
of software may reproduce a single copy of the software, for
backup purposes, provided that the single backup copy is destroyed immediately
once the person ceases to be the owner of the authorized copy of the
In addition to acquiring the exclusive right to copy the work,
the owner of copyright in a work also receives an entire bundle of rights,
some of which are specific to the type of work in question. In the case
of computer software, this bundle of rights includes the right to rent
the software to others, and the corresponding right to restrain others
from renting the software.
Canadian copyright comes into existence automatically, and
in the case of software, it comes into existence at the time the software
was created and continues until the end of the calendar year in which
the author of the software dies (regardless of whether
the author has sold or assigned the copyright in the software or not)
and continues for an additional period of 50 years following the end of
that calendar year.
"Moral" rights are also protected under Canadian copyright
law. Moral rights in Canada include the right of the author of a piece
of software to be associated with the software by name or pseudonym, and
the right to remain anonymous. They also include the author's right to
the integrity of the software (that is, the author's right to stop the
software from being distorted, mutilated or modified, to the prejudice
of the author's honour or reputation, or from being used in association
with a product, service, cause or institution).
Moral rights remain with the author of a piece of software,
even where the software, or the copyright in the software, has been
sold or assigned; regardless of whether the author created the software
in the employ of someone else, or created it under contract, or otherwise.
Moral rights in software continue to exist until the end of
the calendar year in which the author of the software dies (regardless
of whether the author has sold or assigned the copyright in the software
or not) and continues for an additional period of 50 years following
the end of that calendar year.
Copyright in software may be assigned or licensed to others.
All assignments and licenses of copyright must be in writing
to be valid. The mere transfer of physical possession of a copy of piece
of software does not thereby include an assignment of copyright in the software.
While moral rights may not be assigned, these rights may be
waived by the author, in whole or in part. A mere assignment or license
of copyright in a piece of software does not, in and of itself,
amount to a waiver of the moral rights in the software.
It is therefore strongly recommended that, where possible,
all assignments and licenses of copyright include a written waiver of
the author's moral rights in the software, and that all employees who participate
in the creation of a piece of software sign a written waiver of
their moral rights in the software.
The software should be marked with a notice in the following
form: "© Smith and Company, 1996, All Rights Reserved". That is,
the notice should display the copyright symbol ©, followed by the
name of the owner of copyright, followed by the year in which the software
was published, followed by the statement "All Rights Reserved". This notice
is to be displayed in such manner and location as to give reasonable notice
of a claim of copyright in the software.
Copyright may be registered in Canada at the Canadian Copyright
Office located in Ottawa/Hull. While registration of copyright in software
is not required in Canada, registration does provide significant
benefits to the copyright owner, and is recommended.
When registering copyright in Canada, there is no need to file
a copy of the software with the Canadian Copyright Office. In fact, the Canadian
Copyright Office will return any software which anyone attempts to file with
them! It is therefore possible to obtain a copyright registration in
Canada without having to disclose any of the confidential information which
may be contained in the software (although you will have to disclose
the software's title).