Copyright 101

We frequently hear about Author’s Right or Copyright, but how to really understand what it is?
Here are some tips that can help you better understand it and explaining why Copyright / Author’s Right is so important for the sustainability of artistic creation in our country.

A visual or media artist is an "author of artistic works"
First, it must be noted that Copyright is an intellectual property right. A visual artist or creator in crafts or stage arts, as defined in the Copyright Act of Canada, is called an "author of artistic works." We are talking about "artistic works" to differentiate them from musical, dramatic or literary works.

The protection of Copyright applies to an "original" work
To be protected by Copyright, a work must be original, unique. The work should not be a copy of a work by another artist. It must attest to the skill and judgment of its author. It must therefore show an independent creative effort and be the personal expression of its author.
Note that in the case of engraving, photography or sculpture, there may be multiple originals of a single work. In this case the artist produces a limited series of prints, photographs or sculptures. So each copy is signed and numbered by its creator; each copy is then considered an original work.

The Author's Rights / Copyrights in His / Her Work
Copyright on a work entails the exclusive right to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part of a work in any material or digital form. If the work is not published, the author may publish all or a significant part of it. Copyright also includes the exclusive right to present the work to the public by telecommunication (Internet, social networks, television, etc.). The work can also be made public in a museum or gallery exhibition. The artist holding the copyright may authorize the execution of the above various uses by another person or organization.

A source of income to support the artists and their creative work
As owners of their works, artists may exploit different uses in order to generate income and to finance their future artistic production. This income is provided by the payment of Copyright royalties. These royalties stem from the permission granted by an artist to a user (museum, art center, publisher, producer, etc.). This permission is called a "license" and the granting of a license is done by signing a contract which confers certain rights to the user in return of a compensation which is usually, but not always, monetary.

Is Copyright a privilege?
Copyright is not a privilege granted to private individuals having the status of artists as if it were a kind of aristocracy. Artists are workers and all work deserves remuneration. Copyright is a private property right, similar to that which pertains to a building or land, except that this right applies to the result of a creative intellectual effort, like a sculpture, a painting, a theatre costume, a blown glass vase, a play, a novel, a symphony, a film etc ... Unless society becomes a regime where everything belongs to everyone, intellectual property remains, just like private property on a house or a car, a normal attribute attached to intellectual works.

An unloved but necessary system
Who has not reacted negatively to a prohibition to use a work on the Internet or elsewhere because it is protected by the © symbol or an expression like: "All rights reserved for all countries"? Often seen as impediments or unfair blockades, these warnings serve to advise a potential user to ask permission to use the work. Contrary to what some people believe, not everything in life is free. To produce an artistic work costs money to the artists who, whatever may be said, does not live with just the love of their art ; money is needed for brushes, paint, material, tools, etc.
In other words, if we want artistic creations, music, original literary works to still exist in the future, well, it is necessary for the creative artists to be able to live now. Some may not like Copyright, but it still remains the best way to remunerate the making of creative works of art.

Copyright Management (or Administration)
To manage their Copyright, creators can choose one of three options :
a) The creator can manage their rights themselves receiveing requests for licenses on their works and negotiating the conditions and price of the licenses. In this case, creators are dependent on their own negotiating capabilities and retain all the royalties they are able to negotiate from the users.
b) The creator as a member of a professional association can accept that his/her works are covered by a collective agreement between the professional association and potential user. In this case the creator does not have to manage the communications, the negotiations and the financial management since the professional association takes care of those tasks. The creator retains all royalties and pays a modest working dues to the association.
c) Thirdly, the creator may have his/her Copyright negotiated and managed on his/her behalf by an agent or a copyright management society. Agents and Copyright management societies set their own fee schedules for royalties they require on behalf of their clients or members. The agent or society will pay the collected royalties to the creator after retaining an administrative fee of up to 25% of the royalties collected.