Here’s another example. Small business owners who engage advertising and design companies to create logos, artwork and even websites for the business may be surprised to learn that the copyright in the design and artwork is almost always retained by the design company that created it, not the business that paid for it to be done. Your written contract would have to have assigned the copyright in the designs, ad copy and artwork to you for you to “own” the copyright. So if you’re concerned, maybe you want that assignment language in the contract you have with your agency.
Likewise, if your company has hired employees to create designs, ad copy or other “works,” your company owns the copyright in their work product, unless of course, they are “contractors” and not employees, in which case, absent a contract that says otherwise, they own the copyright in their work product, not you. So if you’re concerned, you should put something in the contract you have with your workers to formally establish your copyright ownership of work product.
A discussion of copyright must include the issue of moral rights. The creator of a work, even though he or she may have sold copyright of a work, still maintains a moral right to the work, to prevent the work from being distorted, mutilated, or otherwise modified in a way that is prejudicial to the reputation of the work or the creator. The best example of this in Canada is case of artist Michael Snow, who created some flying Canada Geese sculptures in the Toronto Eaton Centre. The mall was forced to remove red Christmas bows from around the geese's necks as they distorted his original work. But copyright assignments often contain a waiver of the artist’s moral rights.
Finally, you should be aware that every country has different laws governing copyright, and the number of years that copyright is protected will differ, depending on the “work” and the country. Countries that have signed an international treaty called the Berne Convention automatically extend to authors from other signatory countries the same copyright protection as they give their own nationals.
Special to the Globe and Mail
Vancouver franchise lawyer Tony Wilson is the author of Buying A Franchise In Canada – Understanding and Negotiating Your Franchise Agreement and he is ranked as a leading Canadian franchise lawyer by LEXPERT. He is head of the Franchise Law Group at Boughton Law Corp. in Vancouver and acts for both franchisors and franchisees across Canada, many of whom are in the food services and hospitality industry. He is a registered Trademark Agent, an Adjunct Professor at Simon Fraser University and he also writes for Bartalk and Canadian Lawyer magazines.