Is Mariah Carey the QUEEN OF CHRISTMAS®?  Not according to the US Trademark Office!

Close-up of Christmas ornements hung on a Christmas tree.

Mariah Carey wrote and recorded one of the world’s most well known Christmas songs, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU.  Originally released in 1994, it has become a staple of holiday music playlists; the song has reported earned over $60 million in royalties.  In view of this, Mariah Carey could arguably call herself the QUEEN OF CHRISTMAS, right?

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Who Really Benefits from Canada’s Impending Copyright Term Extension?

Various copyright sign on a square paper

It is now official. As of December 30, 2022 the term of protection for copyrighted works will be extended by 20 years to match earlier extensions that occurred in the United States and Europe.

Starting on that date, copyright protection will expire 70 years from the end of the civil year during which the author of a work passed away. In the case of works of co-authorship, the starting point of the calculation is the end of the civil year during which the last surviving coauthor passed away. Distinct rules providing for longer terms of protection for anonymous and pseudonymous works are already in force.

This amendment does not have the effect of “reviving” copyright for works already in the public domain at the time of coming into force. In other words, the author or last surviving coauthor of a work must have passed away at the latest on December 31, 1972 to gain 20 extra years of protection. All works that remain protected by copyright will benefit from this amendment.

While this is a positive development for copyright owners, this development only amplifies a key pitfall of copyright law in Canada. Canada’s copyright legislation continues to provide for a “reversion” of rights 25 years from the death of an author. This only applies if the author was the first owner of copyright in the work. This will occur, however, in almost all circumstances, except if a work is created by an employee as part of their duties. This is because Canada does not have the same broad set of “work for hire” rules that exist in the United States of America.

No steps need to be taken for rights to revert to the heirs or legatees. This occurs automatically after 25 years. They can then exercise their rights as copyright owners against all users of a substantial part of the work, subject to the exceptions provided by law. The extension of the term of protection effectively means that the term of protection subject to “reversion” grows from roughly 25 years to 45 years.

It is impossible to contract out of this reversion for Canadian copyrights. The only options are either to insure that important works are systematically developed in the course of employment or, failing this, being named as a legatee in the will of the relevant authors – which may be no small feat. If, perchance, a Canadian Court recognizes that US “work for hire” rules have legal effect under Canadian copyright laws, that may be another avenue. There is however some controversy about whether this is possible.

In the end, a longer term of protection may translate into a string of headaches for some owners of copyrighted works.

Social Media and Copyright: What are the Common Copyright Limitations and Issues Users Face?

Social media phones

In a time when online sharing is becoming more and more complicated thanks to an ever increasing number of social media platforms cropping into existence and an equally ever increasing amount of time people are spending online, various copyright issues are bound to arise. Continue reading to learn more about the common Canadian copyright limitations and issues users may face in sharing and living in an online world.

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PART II: Are Tattoos Protected by Copyright?

Men tattooing a person.

As detailed in Part I of this blog post, despite the fact that Canadian courts have not yet grappled with a case related to copyright and tattoos, the Copyright Act and foreign caselaw suggests that copyright very likely subsists in tattoos and that the rights to tattoos most likely reside with the tattoo artists who design and ink the tattoos on individuals’ skin. This copyright can create a host of legal problems for tattooed individuals, particularly public figures whose tattoos could end up on display and recreated across many different platforms. Continue reading for a discussion of some of the options available to those individuals who are concerned about the consequences of not owning their own tattooed image.

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PART I: Are Tattoos Protected by Copyright?

Men tattooing a person.

Updated October 18th, 2022

As tattoos have become increasingly common, the question of whether copyright subsists in a tattoo and what that means has come to the forefront of the copyright conversation. The deep personal connection that many people feel towards the permanent ink on their skin does not change the fact that the authorship and ownership of most tattoo designs most likely does not reside with the bearers of the tattoos, but rather with the tattoo artists. This fact creates a number of issues that can range from relatively simple problems, such as tattooists being prevented from using other tattooists’ designs on others, to complicated issues, such as large video game companies being unable to recreate accurate depictions of real tattooed celebrities who have given the companies permission to use their likenesses in games.

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