Copyright FAQ

General rules for Canadian copyright

Go to the Copyright FAQ for more detailed information. This table provides the general rules for copyright in the following types of material:
  • Published Textual Material
  • Unpublished Textual Material
  • Maps and Plans
  • Photos
  • Films/Videos
  • Sound Recordings
Type of Material First Copyright Holder Term of Copyright
Pamphlets Author, or employer if done in course of employment Life of author + 50 years
Newspaper articles or clippings; Periodical articles Publisher of the newspaper or periodical if the writer was an employee; Author if a freelance writer (unless there is an agreement transferring copyright to the publisher) Life of author + 50 years
Entire newspapers Publisher Life of author (likely the editor) + 50 years
Note: Although not based in law, some organizations have applied a 90-year rule to newspapers, so that newspapers more than 90 years old are considered to be in the public domain.
School yearbooks The yearbook itself: the school
Items in the yearbook (e.g., photos, text, artwork): Most likely the author (but depends on the media type)
Life of author (likely the editor) + 50 years
Most likely life of author + 50 years (but depends on the media type)
Government Publications (federal or provincial) Crown First publication + 50 years
Unpublished records of an organization e.g., letters, memos, reports, etc. Organization if the author was one of its employees; otherwise the copyright holder is the author of each work Life of author + 50 years
Note: There is a complicated series of term rules for unpublished works whose authors died before 1999. Consult further sources. (See Where can I get more information?)
Unpublished government records (federal and provincial) in all media types Crown First publication + 50 years
Unpublished personal manuscripts e.g., letters, diaries, memoirs Author Life of author + 50 years
Note: There is a complicated series of term rules for unpublished works whose authors died before 1999. Consult further sources. (See Where can I get more information?)
Scrapbooks; other multi-media works or compilations
Note: There are two “layers” of copyright in multi-media works or compilations (See What about compilations…?)
The scrapbook itself: Author (whoever selected and arranged the contents)
Items in the scrapbook: Depends on the media type
Life of author + 50 years
Items in the scrapbook: Depends on the media type
Dissertations, theses, essays Authors Life of author + 50 years
Maps and plans (published or unpublished) Employer if the author was one of its employees; otherwise copyright holder is the author Life of author + 50 years
Photographs (including postcards) Author
OR
Employer if made in the course of employment
Life of author + 50 years
Films or videos Author
Note: The Act does not specify who the “author” of a film or video is. Generally, the author is the person responsible for the intellectual or artistic content of a work; in the case of moving image materials it may be the director.
OREmployer if made in the course of employment
Life of author + 50 years
Note: There is a complicated series of term rules for unpublished works whose authors died before 1999, and other special rules for films or videos that do not have “original “character.” Consult further sources. (See Where can I get more information?)
Sound recordings, i.e., any recording of sounds fixed in any material form (e.g., audiotapes, vinyl disks, CDs) Maker 50 years after the sounds were first recorded
Oral Histories Maker (most likely the interviewer unless there is an agreement to the contrary) 50 years after the interview was first recorded

Updated April 2, 2013