copyright law

Understanding Copyrights

Copyright protects the exclusive right to produce, reproduce, publish, sell, display, and/or perform original works, either in their entirety or in any substantial part thereof. Although such works are usually thought of as being associated with music or movies, they may also be artistic, dramatic, and/or literary in nature.

Copyright can also apply to communication signals (i.e., radio waves), audio/video recordings, and performances. Copyright is typically held by the creator of a work, but it may also be transferred to another individual or entity.


Copyright is necessary to ensure that original creative works are protected from imitation and replication. Canadian copyright law assumes that the moment an original work is created in physical form, a copyright exists. A legal issue arises when a creator— without a registered copyright certificate—cannot prove to a judge that they are the true, original creator of their artistic work.

This highlights the importance of registering copyrighted works. Once a work is registered, its creator receives a certificate of registration, which acts as proof of ownership in legal disputes. Unregistered copyrighted materials are vulnerable to section 39(1) of the Copyright Act, which states that any infringing party need not pay damages to the copyright owner, if the infringing party can prove they were unaware the work was copyrighted.

Copyrights have become increasingly important as the advancement of technology has significantly changed how individuals consume entertainment and artistic material. These changes have led to significant changes in copyright laws and protections for works that are shared through digital media. For creators who wish to benefit from their work, it is increasingly important to retain a method of proving ownership rights. This may be difficult to accomplish without appropriate legal guidance.

The digitization of original material makes art and entertainment increasingly accessible, transferable, and susceptible to theft and reproduction. Digital piracy, file sharing, and illegal streaming sites are just a few examples of how artistic works can be easily infringed upon in the information age.

Additionally, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) does not inspect matters of infringement. This means creators must be diligent in detecting unauthorized use(s) of their work.

This underscores the need for competent and persistent legal services to acquire and enforce copyrights.


Our team of lawyers and agents specialize in guiding our clients through the process of registering their copyrighted works. We can also provide audits and opinions on whether our clients’ creative materials are infringing on existing works. Additionally, through our network of associates, we can file for copyright applications in foreign jurisdictions to protect the use of our clients’ works abroad. RMH can help safeguard copyrighted works from infringement through litigation and by initiating and responding to cease and desist letters, as well as by providing legal advice on all other matters related to Canadian copyright law. If you wish to share rights in your creative work, our agents and associates can draft licensing agreements to assign full or partial ownership to other parties. We can ensure that your ownership rights are safe, while allowing others to use your work under set terms and conditions.


Access the Canadian Intellectual Property Office’s Copyrights database for all Canadian copyrights registered as of October 1991.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding our copyright protection or registration services. Please call to arrange a confidential telephone appointment with our knowledgeable staff.


We are conveniently located at the northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor Streets in Toronto. Our offices are located on the 18th floor at 2 Bloor Street East.

Riches McKenzie & Herbert LLP


(416) 961-5000
09.00 am to 5.00 pm E.S.T.


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