Frequently Asked Questions

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The answers provided below are formulated to simplify and convey information and do not constitute legal advice. Please consult a lawyer for any legal advice.

The Copyright Board of Canada

The Copyright Board is an independent federal administrative tribunal.

To better understand its activities, please consult the Mandate, jurisdiction and role section.

The Copyright Act provides that a copyright collective society may file a proposed tariff with the Board for the purpose of establishing the royalties to be paid in respect of certain rights it administers. A proposed tariff is a proposal submitted by a collective society to the Board for examination and decision.

Since April 1, 2019, a proposed tariff must have an application period of three or more calendar years, and must be filed in both official languages no later than October 15 of the second calendar year before its application period.

Once the proposed tariff is published on the Board’s website, a user (or in the case of private copying, any interested person) has 30 days to file an objection with the Board. 

While a tariff may be approved as proposed, others may be modified after the examination process, in which the Board will usually evaluate the relative use of the work; the value of the work for the user; the financial impact of the tariff; and the possible “market diversion effect”.

The approved tariff is then published in the Canada Gazette and on the Board’s website.

The usual process at the Board is similar to that of a typical court of law.

To better understand the tariff setting process, refer to the Procedure section.

The Board is an expert administrative tribunal. As such, it is not bound by strict rules of procedure and evidence, and may decide the best course of action to fulfill its mandate.

Many tariff applications obtain a decision from the Board without the need for a hearing. It will generally hold a hearing when the application raises complex issues that need to be debated, or if there is a challenge from one or more of the parties.

The Copyright Act provides that "cases before the Board are heard expeditiously and without formality".

The complexity and level of preparation of the file submitted may influence the time taken by the Board to examine the application as well as the time taken to deliberate leading to a decision, for example, if the file is incomplete.

The number of stakeholders can also indirectly influence the duration of the process, since this increases the possibility of having an objection to the proposed tariff; or if there is objection, since the objectors must present their arguments in writing. Once the objectors' files are considered complete and have been presented, the Board enters into deliberation. Its decision is made public when it approves the tariff and publishes it in the Canada Gazette.

As of April 2019, the Copyright Act provides that the period of application of a tariff is at least three calendar years.

Once the minimum period has elapsed, collective societies may submit a new tariff proposal to take account of technological, economic or social changes which affect the market and the habits of users.

The Board is an administrative tribunal. Its role is to approve the tariffs on the basis of which the conditions of use of certain works may be established. These conditions are set out in licences granted by collective societies, not the Board.

You should first contact the collective societies that manage the rights associated with the works you wish to use. For additional information, please refer to the Collective Societies section.

You can also search the database at the Search Decisions and Tariffs section section to find the tariff which applies to you. 

The Board may under certain conditions deliver a licence for the use of a work when the copyright holder is unlocatable. For additional information, please refer to the Unlocatable Owner section.

Copyright

Copyright protects:

  • literary works (for example, books, pamphlets and computer programs);
  • dramatic works (for example, films, plays and television shows);
  • musical works (for example, musical compositions, whether or not accompanied by lyrics);
  • artistic works (for example, drawings, sculptures, photographs and paintings)
  • performances (for example, the performance of a musical or dramatic work by a performer);
  • sound recordings (recordings made up of sounds, fixed on a material support, for example on CD);
  • communication signals (radio waves broadcast for reception by the public).

Protection is granted automatically, without any formality, as soon as the work is created and fixed in any material form.

In Canada, copyright is an exclusive federal jurisdiction and is governed by the Copyright Act. Canada is also a member of several international treaties that define, among other things, the minimum protection granted to copyright owners and the conditions for the use of their works, in Canada and abroad. For more information on this subject, please see our International section.

  • Ideas, including business methods, procedures, processes, concepts, principles or discoveries. Copyright protects the expression of ideas, but not the ideas themselves.
  • Works that are not original are not protected by copyright. The courts have established that an original work must necessarily be the product of exercise to a sufficient degree of the author's talent and judgment.
  • Works or other subject matter of copyright which are no longer protected by copyright, for example when the term of protection has expired.

In general, the first owner of copyright in a work is its author (for example, composer, writer, painter or sculptor). Performers, producers of sound recordings and broadcasters are the copyright owners of their performances, sound recordings and communication signals, respectively.

To use a copyrighted work or any other subject matter of copyright, or a substantial part thereof, you generally need to obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Copyright Act provides certain exceptions for the use of protected material without the prior authorization of the copyright owner. These exceptions include, among others, the use of an insignificant part of a work, fair dealing (for research or educational purposes, for example) and reproduction for private purposes.

If you believe that the intended use of the work falls under one of the exceptions provided by the Copyright Act, you should still seek legal advice.

In Canada, copyright lasts for the life of the author, and then for 50 years after the end of the calendar year after his death. This is the minimum duration provided for in the Berne International Convention to which Canada is a party. The term of protection may be longer in other countries.

There are special rules for works created in collaboration, works in which the Crown has copyright, works in which the author is unknown and posthumous works.

Published sound recordings and performers' performances are protected for a period of 70 years following the end of the calendar year in which the publication took place.

At the expiration of the copyright, a work, a performance by a performer, a sound recording or a communication signal is considered to be in the public domain and can be used without authorization. However, it is important to note that new editions of a work that is already in the public domain may contain elements that are protected by copyright, even if the original work is no longer protected.

Copyright Registration and Infrigement

The Copyright Board is not responsible for copyright registration. In Canada, copyright registration is the responsability of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).

For more information, we invite you to read CIPO's Guide to Copyright. This guide explores what copyright is, the process for registering copyrights and the benefits of registration.

If you feel your copyright has been infringed, we strongly suggest you seek legal advice.

If this is your case, we strongly advise you seek legal advice.

The Copyright Act provides some exceptions, but if you feel the use you want to make of a protected work falls under one of these exceptions, we still advise you to seek legal advice to make sure.

Unlocatable Copyright Owners

The Copyright Act provides that you can apply to the Copyright Board which may issue a licence in lieu of the copyright owner under certain conditions.

For additional information, please refer to the Unlocatable Owner section.

As each case is specific, the period depends on several parameters such as whether additional research or information are required from the filing of the original application. The Board's service standards are 45 days to render a decision, once the file is considered complete. More complex requests may take longer.

For additional information, please refer to the Unlocatable Owner section.

Using Copyrighted Material

We recommend that you first contact the collective societies responsible for managing the rights for public performances of audiovisual content. Your obligations and terms of the relationship with those collective societies are governed by a tariff set by the Copyright Board. For more information, go to the Search Decisions and Approved Tariffs section.

In certain limited circumstances, public performances of audiovisual content do not require a licence as the Copyright Act provides for exceptions to this right. You may want to seek legal advice to confirm whether this is the case in your situation.

We recommend that you first contact SOCAN which is responsible for managing the rights for public performances of music. Your obligations and terms of the relationship with SOCAN are governed by a tariff set by the Copyright Board. The approved tariffs can be found on the Search Decisions and Approved Tariffs section.

In certain limited circumstances, public performances of music do not require a licence as the Copyright Act provides for exceptions to this right. You may want to seek legal advice to confirm whether this is the case in our situation.

Yes. The venue may charge you a portion of its own costs to acquire a licence for music performance royalties. Fore more information on the tariffs that apply to your situation, go to the Search Decisions and Approved Tariffs section.

The Copyright Act provides that only a collective society can collect retransmission royalties. Becoming a member of a retransmission collective society will enable you to receive payments of retransmission royalties, where applicable.

If you are not a member of such a collective, the Copyright Act allows you to nonetheless claim such royalties. You may contact the relevant retransmission collective for this purpose. A list of the different retransmission collective societies is provided in the Canadian Collective Societies section. If the need arises, the Copyright Board may designate the collective society that will pay out the royalties.

We recommend that you contact the relevant collective society to verify whether a tariff has been proposed or approved that would cover the intended use. If no such tariff exists, we recommend that you try to contact the copyright owner directly, whom may be represented by a collective society, to seek permission to use the content.

You may also want to seek legal advice to determine whether the intended use is subject to exceptions provided by the Copyright Act or if the material is not protected by copyright, in which case an authorization would not be required.

 

Collective Societies

A collective society is an organization that administers the rights of several copyright owners. It can grant permission to use their works and other subject-matter, and set the conditions for that use. Collective administration is widespread in Canada, particularly for public performance of music and reproduction rights. Some collective societies are affiliated with foreign societies; this allows them to represent foreign copyright owners in Canada.

For additional information, please refer to the Canadian Collective Societies section.

Collective societies are responsible for the filing of proposed tariffs with the Board for approval in respect to the rights they manage. The Board then assesses the files and the evidence submitted by the parties involved and, at the end of the process, it can approve the proposed tariffs with the terms and conditions it deems appropriate.

The Copyright Act provides that collective societies may file their tariff proposals once a year, at the latest on October 15 of the second calendar year preceding its period of application (e.g. for a tariff to take effect in 2023, the proposed tariff should be submitted to the Board by October 15, 2021). The tariffs submitted must be valid for a period of minimum three years.

Each collective society has one or more fields of activity as well as its own repertoire of protected works in accordance to the type of rights it represents. Most collective societies have a search engine for browsing their online repertoire.

For additional information on the different collective societies, please refer to the Canadian Collective Societies section.

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