If your website is online, it already enjoys copyright protection under Canadian copyright law as long as its content is original. You can also register your website with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Registration constitutes public proof that your website is copyrighted and that you are the copyright owner. Registration also makes it more difficult for an infringing party to claim unintentional infringement, and allows potential licensees to contact you for permission to use material on your website.
Reduce your website to a tangible form -- in other words, type out the text, insert the graphics and perform any other acts necessary to make it viewable on a computer screen. Although Canadian copyright law does not protect mere ideas, your website is subject to common-law copyright protection as soon as you create it -- you don't even have to put it online.
Place a copyright notice at the bottom of each page of your website. A copyright notice includes the copyright symbol -- the letter C in a circle -- as well as the name of the copyright holder and the year of first publication. The year of first publication means the year you intend to put it online. Although Canadian copyright law no longer requires the use of the copyright symbol, a copyright symbol deters infringement and helps defeat a defense of unintentional infringement in the event of a lawsuit.
Create a user account on the Industry Canada website, click on the "Copyrights" tab on the left-hand side, and follow the on-screen prompts to navigate to the online copyright registration application issued by CIPO.
Complete the copyright registration application. You must provide the name of your website, and you must categorize it. If your website is mostly text, for example, you might categorize it as "literary." You must also provide publication details such as the date your website first went online, information about the copyright owner, and information about yourself if you are not the copyright owner. You must also include contact details that would allow a potential licensee to request permission to use portions of your website. You don't need to upload a copy of your work.
Pay the filing fee of $50 online using a credit or debit card and submit your application. CIPO will review it and, if it finds no problems, send you a copyright certificate. Your copyright certificate constitutes legal proof of registration. CIPO may contact you later if questions arise concerning the content of your website.
You do not have to be Canadian to be entitled to copyright protection under Canadian law, and you need not have created your website in Canada.
Changing the name of your website after registration might make it more difficult to prove that your website's content was actually registered.
The use of streaming broadcast programming over the Internet is a gray area of Canadian copyright law. Because legislation is still developing in this area, copyright protection is not certain.
- Kerr & Nadeau: Copyright Law in Canada
- Media Awareness Network: Canadian Copyright Act -- An Overview
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office: A Guide to Copyrights
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office: FAQ on Copyright
- SitePoint: What It Means to Copyright a Website
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office: How Your Copyright Applicaiton is Processed
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