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Copyright Infringement: What It Is and What You Can Do About It

Protecting intellectual property is best done with a Toronto copyright lawyer on your side. Unfortunately, copyright infringement happens all the time. You often read headlines about copyright-infringing activity resulting in significant statutory damages, but if you have not taken the proper steps to protect your material, you have very little recourse.

A Toronto copyright lawyer with experience can ensure that infringement is met with strict penalties once you have your copyrighted material protected. The law regarding the copyright process in Canada can feel a bit overwhelming to navigate. While it is true that once you write something down or compose it, the property is yours, proving infringement is nearly impossible without a registered copyright.

The Copyright Act

Under Canadian law, the Copyright Act lays out the conditions for protecting material. Literary works, original music scores, computer programs, software, paintings, and a slew of other personal works can be copyrighted if the material meets the criteria outlined in the Copyright Act.

Copyright is defined as the “exclusive right to copy, produce, or distribute the material.” It can protect both published and unpublished work, spoken word (speeches and lectures), dramatic representations, films, photographs, and more. It all sounds simple, but it is quite a complex process.

Copyright Registration

Copyright is automatic in Canada. Once you have put pen to paper, your literary works are protected. The same is true with music and other art forms; however, not registering your copyright can make you vulnerable. Without registration, it can be exponentially harder to prove an infringement case.

Courts like a paperwork trail because it makes a huge difference when you have hard evidence that the material in question is registered to you. The automatic protection has some substance but proving it in court can be difficult.

The copyright office in Canada is responsible for copyright registration. However, it is not responsible for monitoring or checking on registered works. In other words, registration provides proof of ownership, but infringement activity does not fall under the purview of the Canadian government. Protecting your copyrighted material falls on you and a good Toronto copyright lawyer to enforce.

Enforcement of the copyright laws starts with making sure that you register your copyrights.

Why Do People Copyright Material?

The entire goal of the copyright process is to protect your material from being used or claimed by other entities. It protects your economic rights to profit from the material. It also gives you a legal leg to stand on if there is an infringement of the material. Others cannot legally gain from your work if your work is copyrighted.

Creating literary works, music, or other art often requires years of time and effort. Copyrighting intellectual material ensures that your hard work does not wind up creating an income stream for someone else.

What Is Copyright Infringement?

Copyright infringement can be complex. In its simplest form, it involves the outright (mis)use of protected material by a third party that presents said material as if it were their own. For example, you write a manuscript, have it copyrighted but not published, then pass a bookstore and see your title in the window under a different author’s name. Another example of blatant copyright infringement is writing an original music composition and recognizing it on the radio as the instrumental backing of a song.

In other cases, the infringement is not quite as obvious. In still other cases, a user may incorporate part of the protected material into a larger work without permission. In cases of less egregious use, it is essential to have a Toronto copyright lawyer on your side.

The music industry is often plagued with copyright violations. Using copyrighted visuals on your website without permission may also constitute a copyright infringement.

These less blatant types of infringement cases, where parts of your material are in use, can be more difficult to prosecute and often wind up in court for extensive periods. Some of the most famous infringements have been with:

  • Literary works, films, music
  • Computer software and hardware designs

Other infringement issues include the use of visual assets, technology, or processes. There are many ways copyright infringement can take place. A good example is downloading songs from an internet-sharing site without buying the music. Another example is incorporating part of a screenplay into a movie. Using someone’s lecture material without giving credit to the person is another form of infringement. Sharing software (a license that you paid for) could constitute a copyright infringement.

A Common Vehicle for Copyright Infringement

The internet has delivered many benefits, but it has also opened a world of opportunities for copyright infringement. The internet has simplified access to copyrighted material and the dissemination of that material.

In this digital age, a lot of material winds up online and is shared repeatedly, which presents a unique problem if you have discovered or believe there has been a copyright violation. There are protections against mass electronic dissemination of copyrighted works, but you must prove that “someone” has stolen your work and be able to name that someone who initially took the work.

It can be a very tangled web to unravel to find the original person who initially used the work online and made it their own. A Toronto copyright lawyer can help with the unraveling to find the actual culprit.

The Canadian Copyright Act of 2012 made some changes to the copyright laws to include recognizing that specific uses were not an infringement of rights. For example, if someone uses your work as part of a “mash-up” and posts it to YouTube or another channel, that is not considered an infringement. Now, of course, if someone takes your complete work and posts it as their own, that is an infringement.

An attorney is your best resource if you believe there has been a copyright violation of your material.

What Is the Recourse for Copyright Infringement?

You do have legal recourse if you have an active copyright registration. Copyrights in Canada protect life plus fifty years after death. It is essential to note that time frame if you are part of an inheritance that includes copyrighted materials.

Prosecuting a copyright infringement case can be a challenge. There are a few things that the lawyer will need to prove, including access to the material and use of it for the sake of profit or benefit.

A Toronto copyright lawyer will likely send a cease-and-desist letter along with a statement of claim to the offender. In most cases, the offender will deny infringement. It is up to the lawyer to present a lawsuit in court that is compelling and convincing to prove the violation.

In Canada, the maximum liability for an infringement is as follows:

  • Non-commercial use infringement liability is capped at C$5000
  • Commercial use infringement liability is capped at C$25,000

Criminal penalties are another possibility, though these are usually reserved for relatively extreme cases of infringement.

Get the Right Legal Protection

Partnering with an experienced Toronto copyright lawyer can help protect your intellectual property and the economic benefits it generates. Get help with your copyright today by reaching out to a professional.

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