Area of Law: Intellectual Property
Answer # 323
How long does a Copyright last?Region: Ontario Answer # 323
In most cases, a copyright lasts for the lifetime of the author plus 50 years after the calendar year in which the author dies. Copyright protection always expires on December 31 of the last year of protection. There are no maintenance fees for copyright and copyright cannot be renewed.
There are several exceptions to the general rule.
Copyright in a work that is published by a government department lasts for the duration of the calendar year in which it was first published plus 50 years. There is no term for copyright in Legislation or Judgments.
Works not published before the author’s death
In some cases, creative works have not been published before the author’s death. Copyright in such works will exist for the duration of the calendar year in which it was first published, performed, or delivered plus 50 years, if the work was published before April 25, 1997. The rule is somewhat different for those marks first published after April 25, 1997.
More than one author
Sometimes works are created by more than one person. In this case, copyright will last during the lives of all the authors and will continue for 50 years after the calendar year in which the last author died.
If the author of a work is unknown, the copyright could last either for the duration of the calendar year in which the work was first published plus 50 years, or copyright could last for the duration of the calendar year in which the work was created plus 75 years, whichever is earlier.
For sound recordings such as compact discs, records, and tapes, the copyright lasts for 70 years from the end of the year in which the original recording was made.
For photographs, copyright exists during the year that the original negative was made, or if there is no original negative, then during the year that the original photograph was made plus 50 years, if the owner is a corporation. Otherwise, the term is the life of the owner of the negative plus 50 years.
For more information about the copyright process, refer to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
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