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Maybe you're an up and coming artist, performance artist, photographer, writer, playwright, poet, songwriter or musician, and you want to publish your creative work online. The internet has provided creative minds with an unprecedented forum to promote their work and get noticed in more affordable ways. For example, online or "e-publishing" whether individually or through a service, such as or offers opportunities for increased collaboration and public accessibility to works which might not be available through traditional print publishers. Unfortunately, online publishing also comes with its fair share of risks with respect to intellectual property ("IP") rights. There is an increased opportunity for plagiarism and theft of your work, so you need to think carefully about protecting your valuable creations, and ensuring you are properly compensated for its use.

In Canada, you can protect your original dramatic, musical, artistic, and literary works through copyright, which is an exclusive right to produce, reproduce, perform or publish your creative work or a compilation of your work, as long as the conditions outlined in the Copyright Act have been met. Copyright exists the moment a work is created. Registration of copyright is generally not required, but it allows you to better protect your work, and can be accomplished by submitting a completed application form with a prescribed fee to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office ("CIPO"). Marking a work with the copyright symbol "©", the name of the copyright owner and the year of first publication is not required in Canada, but it is required in some countries. You can use this marking as a reminder that your work is copyrighted, even if your work is not registered. Copyright generally lasts for the life of the author, and for 50 years following the end of the calendar year in which the author dies.

While copyright protection is certainly important, solely relying on copyright may not be appropriate for all forms of work, and it is important to ensure that the appropriate IP rights are secured. One example, which is probably unique to Canada, is that when a copyrighted design is applied to a useful product or article, which is reproduced in a quantity of more than 50, the copyright owner cannot claim an infringement of copyright or moral rights. The design could however, be protect as a registered industrial design under Industrial Design Act. Another IP concern involves the online platform used to publish your work. When using third party sites to host your creative works, you may be signing away some of your intellectual property rights in exchange for ease of publication. In addition, when more than one person collaborates on a creative work as part of a larger online project, it can be difficult to determine who owns the intellectual property rights in the finished work, and it is important to ensure a clear contract covering IP rights is in place in advance.

If you are thinking of publishing your valuable creative work online, it is important that you take steps to minimize any risks relating to your intellectual property, and consider speaking with an experienced IP professional, before pressing the button to publish or "make it live".


This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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