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Definition of Copyright

A very basic definition of copyright is the right to copy. Copyright is a type of intellectual property, covering intellectual and artistic works. Other types of intellectual property include patents, trademarks, industrial designs, and integrated circuit topographies.

Copyright consists of the economic and moral rights of creators. Copyright allows the owner exclusive rights to produce or reproduce a substantial part of a work in any form (subject to users' rights), as well as other rights, such as performance of the work. These are termed ‘economic rights’. Copyright is a bundle of rights that may either be exercised by the owner, or licensed or assigned wholly or individually to another party. For example, a playwright may grant a licence to a theatre company to perform his or her play, or license the work to be published in another language, or even assign these rights entirely to another party.

In addition to economic rights, the Copyright Act includes rights which cannot be assigned (but they may be waived) termed 'moral rights'. Moral rights include attribution and integrity. Attribution gives the author the right always to be identified with a work, or to remain anonymous, or use a pseudonym. Integrity is the right not to have a work modified or associated with goods or services in a way which is prejudicial to the author’s reputation.

The most well-known case involving infringement of moral rights is Snow v. The Eaton Centre Ltd. (1982) (Ontario High Court of Justice), in which prominent Canadian artist Michael Snow successfully sued the Toronto Eaton Centre. Snow’s sculpture in Eaton Centre consists of dozens of sculpted Canada geese in flight. One Christmas season Eaton Centre bedecked the geese sculpture with seasonal decorations. These decorations were found by the court to distort and modify the sculpture to the prejudice of the artist’s honour or reputation and so ordered them removed.

Copyright also includes users’ rights. These rights include fair dealing for the purposes of research, private study, news reporting, criticism, review, education, satire and parody. Further, there are many other user rights or exceptions including the educational use of the Internet, classroom use of films and musical recordings without public performance rights, and the creation of non-commercial user-generated content.