Copyright is a legal regime that provides a set of limited exclusive rights to regulate the creative expression of ideas. In Canada, copyright provides for two forms of rights: economic rights and moral rights. Economic rights, which is the most frequent meaning when discussing "copyright", are rights designed to allow the holder of the rights to benefit from the work. These rights can be bought and sold in any part, however, they necesssarily have a limited longevity. Moral rights on the other hand, are inalienable rights of the creator of a work that acknowledge the work as an extension of the artist's personality. They are rights that allow for the artist to protect their dignity and reputation.
The purpose of copyright law was articulated in Apple Computer v. Mackintosh Computers by Reed J.
- purpose of the Copyright Act is and always has been to grant a monopoly. No distinction is made therein as to the purpose of the work created -- for entertainment, instruction or other purposes. The legislation historically, in my view had two purposes: to encourage disclosure of works for the "advancement of learning", and to protect and reward the intellectual effort of the author (for a limited period of time) in the work
However, the scope of these rights and those of the public are put in a delicate balance that the courts must regulate.
- The Copyright Act is usually presented as a balance between promoting the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works of the arts and intellectual and obtainning a just reward for the creator (or, more accurately, to prevent someone other than the creator from appropriating whatever benefits may be generated).
Drawing the line indicating what can and cannot be property is always an ongoing debate. The ephemeral nature of expression has made it often very difficult to distinguish from an idea. Moreover, the extent to which right holders should be advantaged adds to the debate. The proliferation of new technologies has only complicated these problems as the law must continually play catch-up to the ever changing information landscape.
Since 2002 copyright law has experienced a significant change on an almost yearly basis. The Courts have slowly been adopting an interpretive approach similar to the US wherein interests of the artists are offset by interests of the public as demonstrated in the quote above.