I blog, therefore I own my blog. This is a presumption that may not be true in all circumstances. So what does Canadian copyright law say about ownership? First, all bloggers need to know that there are copyright law rules on the ownership of blogs. We are not talking netiquette or what’s ethical when blogging or using Twitter or Facebook. Canada’s copyright law is set out in a statute, the Canadian Copyright Act. The rules of ownership are clearly set out in a section called “Ownership of copyright”:
Ownership of copyright
- (1) Subject to this Act, the author of a work shall be the first owner of the copyright therein.
What does this simple clause mean? I will put it into the context of someone who writes a blog post or has their own blog.
The author of a blog is the owner of that blog. The author of a post is the owner of that post.This is the general rule. Read below to see how and when the rule applies to your circumstances. Note that there may be copyright in a blog as a whole, as well as copyright in individual postings and images in that blog.
In copyright law, the author is the person to first put something in writing, in words, on a recordation app on your iPhone, and in digital bits. So every blog post is potentially protected by copyright, and you, the blogger, are that post’s author and first owner. This is true for a photo you take, a post you write, and a podcast you create.
As the owner of your own blog and posts, you have a bundle of rights in them, including the right to reproduce your posts or blog or substantial parts of them. This requires some thought and perhaps some strategy. Do you want others to freely use and re-use your content, or do you want some control over your content, and possibly even some payment for the re-use of your content? Think about the answer to these questions prior to posting your content.
You have additional rights called moral rights. Moral rights provide you with the right to have your name on your work, use a pseudonym, or to remain anonymous. Moral rights also allow you to stop any modifications to your content or prevent your work from being used in association with a service, cause, or institution in a manner which may harm your reputation as the author of that content. For example, if someone morphs a photograph of yours, and it harms your reputation as a photographer, you have a moral rights infringement claim under the Canadian Copyright Act.
Use the Copyright Symbol
You have the right to put a statement on your blog and on your posts to the effect that anyone may use your content in any which way whatsoever without paying you or notifying you. You can create such a statement with your own wording; some bloggers use Creative Common (CC) licenses. If you choose a CC license, pick the appropriate one carefully—each one permits different uses of your content.
You also have the right to control your blog and posts and to stop people from using your content without first obtaining your permission. This may be easier said than done. Although not mandatory in Canada, you should always use a copyright symbol ( © ) on your content. Go further. State something to the following effect: For permissions, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s the best reminder to your readers that they need permission to reproduce your content.
Are You Employed?
In my first point (see “1”, above),, I said that if you are the author of posts or a blog, then— as the general rule— you are the posts’ or blog’s owner. One exception to this general rule is if you are employed and you are blogging as part of your employment duties— in which case your employer owns your posts and blog. If you are employed and do not blog as part of your work duties, but you have a personal blog outside of work duties, you are the owner of that blog; however it is best to have a written agreement with your employer so it is clearly set out (and understood between the two of you) that you own your blog in this situation. If you volunteer or are paid to create a post or a blog, you are the owner of that post or blog. The organization for whom you are blogging may ask you to assign to them the rights in your posts or blog (if they are familiar with copyright law). Should you agree to do this? It is entirely up to you. Are you getting paid for this work? Or are you benefiting from some goodwill generated by having your name on your work? Or are you just happy to help someone else out?
Third Party Content
You do not own copyright in third party content. Third party content is a photograph, text, illustration, or graph created by someone other than you. Do not use third party content without permission. Always assume that all online content, including images found through Google is protected by copyright unless you have reason to believe otherwise.
You work hard to create your posts and blogs; you should work equally hard at understanding the rules for ownership of your content. Whether you allow others to freely use your content or whether you want lesser or greater control over others’ uses of your work, the choice is yours to make. Make it an educated choice. Get to know how Canadian copyright law works.
Lesley Ellen Harris is a lawyer, educator and author. She is currently writing the 4th edition of her book, Canadian Copyright Law. Lesley edits The Copyright & New Media Law Newsletter. Lesley blogs on copyright and licensing issues at Copyrightlaws.com. Follow her on Twitter @Copyrightlaws.
The content of this post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice; consult a lawyer should you need legal advice.