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Wilfrid Laurier University Office of Research Services
October 24, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

Copyright FAQ



COPYRIGHT BASICS

  • What is copyright and what does it protect?

  • What rights does copyright give you?

  • Iíve got a great idea. Is it protected by copyright?

  • Who owns the copyright in the work I do?


COPYRIGHT IN RESEARCH

  • Iíve discovered some great data. Is it protected by copyright?

  • I want to use someone elseís copyright in my research. Can I?


PROTECTING AND COMMERCIALIZING YOUR COPYRIGHT

  • Who do I get copyright protection? Do I need to register?

  • How do I protect my copyright?

  • What should I do if someone wants to use my copyright?

  • How can I commercialize my copyright?


COPYRIGHT BASICS

  • What is copyright and what does it protect?


Copyright is the legal protection given to certain types of original works and includes a wide range of creations, including books, articles, posters, manuals, diagrams, figures and graphs, as well as CDs, DVDs, software, databases and websites. It gives the copyright owner exclusive rights to control the copying and dissemination of their works and can be a very valuable asset.

  • What rights does copyright give you?


Copyright gives the copyright owner a number of exclusive rights, such as the right to copy, perform or communicate their work to the public. This means that, for example, other people cannot post your work online or copy your poster unless they have your consent or fall within one of the exceptions within the Copyright Act.

  • Iíve got a great idea. Is it protected by copyright?


No, not unless you reduce the idea to some sort of fixed, tangible form. Copyright does not protect ideas, only the expression of ideas. This means that things like business concepts, plots and algorithms are not protected by copyright. However, the tangible expression of those ideas in an article, manual, flow-chart or software, for example, would be protected.

  • Who owns the copyright in the work I do?


Under the Copyright Act, the general rule is that whoever creates the work owns the copyright in the work, unless they are an employee (in which case the employer owns the copyright) or there is an agreement to the contrary. The University has special arrangements with faculty, set out in the Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty Association Collective Agreement, so that faculty will generally own the copyright in the work they produce, with certain exceptions, such as where the University has specifically commissioned the preparation of the work. Ownership can also be affected by agreements with industry sponsors, who may have an interest in the results of the research they fund. Ultimately, ownership will depend on the facts of your situation and you should contact the Office of Research Services to confirm the ownership interests in your work.

COPYRIGHT IN RESEARCH

  • Iíve discovered some great data. Is it protected by copyright?


Copyright does not apply to facts or information, so your data alone will not get copyright protection. However, if you put your data in a table, figure or an article, then that table, figure or article will be protected by copyright.

  • I want to use someone elseís copyright in my research. Can I?


Most research activities will be covered by the fair dealing exception. This exception provides that you can use a work for research or private study purposes, provided your use is Ďfairí. To make sure your use will be considered fair, you should try to limit your use to only that which is strictly necessary for your purposes. For example, only use small excerpts of materials, do not distribute them to others and consider all other alternatives. Sometimes a good guide is to ask yourself whether you would be comfortable with someone else using your work in the same way. If youíre not sure, contact the Office of Research Services for more information.


PROTECTING AND COMMERCIALIZING YOUR COPYRIGHT

  • How do I get copyright? Do I need to register?


Your work is automatically protected by copyright from the moment it is created. You donít have to mark your work with the © symbol, though it is advisable as it is a useful way to let others know that you are asserting copyright in the work and who they should contact if they wish to use it. A standard form of notice is ĎCopyright © 2006, Jane Doeí. You donít have to register the copyright, though registration does have some benefits if your copyright is infringed. For more information about copyright registration, visit the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

  • How do I protect my copyright?


Regardless of what you want to do with your copyright, you should make sure you protect it to ensure that your interests are not jeopardized and the work is not misused. How to protect your copyright depends on what type of work it is and what you want to do with it. You have different options, such as copyright notices, licences, and technological protection measures. The best way to protect your copyright is by making sure people know what they can and canít do with your work which can be as simple as a one page licence. You can contact the Office of Research Services for more information and assistance in this regard.

  • What should I do if someone wants to use my copyright?


How you respond to a request for a copy of your work or to use your work depends on the nature of the request and what your interests are. You have many options. You could provide your work for a fee, or for free, you could impose certain conditions or you could refuse to provide your work altogether. Before you do so, you should always consider any other people or organizations that may have an interest in the work, such as joint authors, the University, industry sponsors or granting bodies or a publisher.
If you do decide to allow others to use your work, the most important thing is to make clear any limits or conditions on that use and to avoid any liability for what you are providing. This can be done through a short licence agreement. For example, you may specify that the user may not modify the work or you could restrict use to educational purposes. In all circumstances, you should make clear that you are providing the work Ďas isí, without any guarantee that it will suit the userís purposes. For further assistance in this regard, contact the Office of Research Services.

  • How can I commercialize my copyright?


Copyright can be a very valuable asset and universities have often been successful in commercializing copyright, with Googleģ (which came out of Stanford University) being perhaps the most famous example. In most cases, copyright is commercialized by licensing the work to third parties, either to a distributor or direct to an end user, usually for a fee. In some cases, it may become part of a joint venture or spin-off company. If you have created something which you think has broader potential, such as a questionnaire, a video or some software, you should contact the Office of Research Services so that it can assess the commercial opportunities for your work and help you explore the different options.


*** Please note: The information on this webpage is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. If you would like legal advice, please contact independent legal counsel. This FAQ was created by Chabriol Colebatch, Copyright Coordinator, Brock University ***