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Copyright Basics

What is a copyright?
A copyright is the legal protection given in the Canada to original works of authorship. Copyrights protect books, paintings, photos, music, video, software and so forth. Copyright protection attaches to an original work the moment it is fixed in tangible form (on paper, on video,. etc.) and prevents others from reproducing the work or communicating it to the public by telecommunication without permission.

Copyright is a bundle of rights
A copyright is a bundle of rights, including the exclusive right to reproduce, translate, publicly perform, and communicate to the public by telecommunication. In general, copyright for newer works lasts for the life of the author, plus 50 years. The length of copyright protection for older works is often difficult to determine.The fact that a work is old doesn't necessarily mean that the copyright on it has expired. Until the end of the term of protection, a copyright owner has the right to sell, transfer, assign, or license one or all of these exclusive rights to someone else. In Canada, authors of original works also have "moral rights" in the work. This means that they have the right to be associated with the work as its author, under a pseudonym or to remain anonymous. They also have the right to the integrity of the work. For example, if an artist makes a sculpture, it may be a violation of her moral rights to place a red scarf around the sculpture's neck and to resell it.

Copyright registrations and markings
In Canada, you do not need to register a copyright in order to benefit from copyright protections, although it may be easier to file a legal action concerning your copyright if you have registered it. It is also not necessary to place a © on the copyrighted work, but it is a good idea to do so. The absence of a © doesn't mean it’s okay to copy a work without permission.

Resale of copyrighted works
Under the copyright laws, the owner of a particular copy of a copyrighted work is generally entitled to resell the particular copy they own. For example, if you purchase a copy of a DVD movie, you are allowed to resell that particular DVD. Copyright protection prevents you, however, from copying the DVD movie and reselling the copies. If you have licensed the right to use a particular copyrighted item, you should review the license and consult with your lawyer to determine whether you can resell the item.

Selling versus giving away an item
Copyright protection includes the exclusive right to sell, rent or distribute the copyrighted work. This usually means that giving away an unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work (for example a duplicated copy of a videocassette) is not permitted. Thus, selling a pencil for $5.00, and including for "free" an unauthorized DVD copy would probably be against the law.

Rights of publicity
Similarly, putting someone’s face, image, name or signature on a product being sold is prohibited under privacy laws unless prior authorization from such person has been obtained. Thus, for example, using a celebrity’s photograph for a commercial purpose may violate that celebrity's right of publicity, even if the picture was taken by the seller and the seller owns the copyright.

The Berne Convention?
The Berne Convention itself is not law and does not excuse activity which otherwise would violate. The Berne Convention is an international treaty signed by Canada. By signing the Berne Convention, Canada committed to making certain changes to its copyright law.

*This information is not intended to be legal advice. If you have any doubts about whether you can sell an item on eBay, we encourage you to contact the copyright owner or consult your own lawyer.

Violations of this policy may result in a range of actions by eBay, including:

  • Listing cancellation

  • Limits on account privileges

  • Account suspension

  • Forfeit of eBay fees on cancelled listings

  • Loss of PowerSeller status

Sellers would violate a copyright protection and the law by doing any of the following:

  • Burning copies of a DVD movie and reselling the copies (unless the seller has a licence permitting him/her to do so)

  • Photocopying a book and reselling the copies (unless the seller has a licence permitting him/her to do so)

  • Altering and reselling a copyrighted painting or photograph

eBay urges sellers and buyers to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Digital media, including copies of music and software, is easy to reproduce. In order to prevent the sale of unauthorized copies of media, eBay does not allow anyone but copyright owners to list media for sale or transfer by download. The sale of unauthorized copies of media is illegal as well as against eBay policy. This policy helps protect buyers from purchasing unauthorized merchandise, and helps intellectual property rights owners protect their rights and helps create a safer marketplace.

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