By Shaya Silber,
Copyright law protects the expression of ideas. The expression of the idea must be in a fixed form (i.e. it must have some permanency). For example, let’s say I have an idea to a story. I then tell my idea to a friend of mine, the idea would not be protected by copyright law because although I expressed my idea, it has no permanency. It is not fixed. Now, let’s say my friend goes and writes down the idea, technically my friend owns the copyright, because he/she was the first person to express the idea in a fixed form.
Section 1 of the Copyright Act automatically grants protection once a work is expressed in a fixed form. A “fixed form” can mean a variety of things. It can be handwritten, emailed, spoken into a voice recorder and so on.
There are no formal requirements to receive copyright protection. As long as the work is original and fixed it’s automatic. However, depending on what you are trying to protect, it may be advisable to take certain steps to protect your work. In the event that your ownership is ever challenged, it is better to have something concrete to rely on as proof. You may rely on the testimony of a witness who viewed the work at a certain point in time, but there are more reliable steps you may take.
There are many ways to do this. Here are a few examples. The first, and possibly the best method is registering your work with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO). Registration is not free, nor is it necessary in order to obtain copyright protection. However, registering your work with CIPO creates a rebuttable presumption of copyright ownership – something the other methods lack. This means that you are the presumed copyright owner. Anyone wishing to challenge your ownership, bares the burden of proof to demonstrate otherwise.
When registering, all you need to submit is the title of work, the type of work, and some other information depending on the nature of the work (date of first publication, location of first publication etc.). This is an inexpensive process that one of our copyright lawyers can help you with.
Once you register, the Copyright Office will send you a certificate of registration and your name will be available in a publicly searchable database.
Mailing a Copy of the Work to Yourself
Another popular method is to mail a copy of the work to yourself and keeping the envelope sealed. I do not know of any case where this method was actually held up in court. It is not recommended that someone do this as their only method of proof. This method could be used in conjunction with other methods.
You may also have the work notarized. Each page of your work will be signed and stamped by a notary public, which demonstrates that a notary public has verified the existence of the work, and the time of verification.