Movie Copyright Laws in Canada

by Holly Cameron
Movies in Canada are protected by copyright laws.

Movies in Canada are protected by copyright laws.

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Copyright is a form of intellectual property right that protects works that are not physical objects from theft. Copyright laws prohibit the use, copying or reproduction of original literary, artistic, musical or dramatic works without permission from the author. The Copyright Act sets out the laws relating to copyright in Canada. The Canadian Intellectual Property Office administers the Act and keeps an official Register of Copyrights.

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Copyright law protects dramatic works from unauthorized reproduction. The definition of dramatic work in Section 2 of the Copyright Act includes any cinematographic work. Section 2 further defines a “cinematographic work” as any work expressed by a process that is analogous to cinematography. The definition covers works that are silent and those that are accompanied by a soundtrack.

Copyright Protection

Copyright protection extends to the form in which original works are expressed: you cannot copyright a thought or idea. Copyright usually lasts for the duration of the author’s life plus 50 years. During this time the author and his heirs have the sole right to produce the work or to sell or license it to other organizations or individuals. It’s possible to have more than one copyright in the same work: for example, the writer of the screenplay owns the copyright in the script, while the production company may own the copyright in the produced movie. In certain circumstances the law permits unauthorized reproduction of works: for example, for educational or charitable purposes.

Registration of Copyright

If a Canadian citizen creates an original movie, he automatically receives copyright protection under the law. You don’t have to register your work to receive protection, but many choose to do so. To register a copyright, you should contact the Canadian Intellectual Property Office and complete their form. You don’t have to send in a copy of your work to register copyright in it. All work should be listed under its title and the name of the author. You may submit the application for registration electronically for a reduced fee.


Movie piracy involves copying a movie (with a camcorder, for example) and then either selling it on or uploading it to the internet. The Copyright Act prohibits recording for commercial purposes, but critics have suggested that this crime can be difficult to prove. Legislators have proposed a bill to create a new offense of recording movies for personal use, but the bill has not been adopted as of October 2011.