Public Domain

During NAFTA re-negotiations, the Canadian government conceded to American demands that Canada extend the term of copyright from “life plus 50 years” to “life plus 70 years.” On January 1, 2023, the Canadian public domain was thus frozen for 20 years. CAUT has advocated for ways to mitigate these trade obligations and re-balance copyright interests between users and owners, but so far the government has not heeded our advice.  

Learn more and take action.

Fair Dealing

Fair dealing provides a limited right to copy literary and artistic works in a way that is fair for both owners and users of the material. With copyright term extension undermining the availability of content, it is important that fair dealing be protected and enhanced. Fair dealing balances the interests of users and owners while supporting access to information and knowledge. 


CAUT is calling on the government to expand fair dealing by making the list of allowable purposes illustrative. This flexibility could be achieved with the addition to Section 29 of the Copyright Act of “such as” language like in American fair use.  

Every year, CAUT celebrates this part of copyright law during Fair Dealing Week. CAUT is also part of a post-secondary education coalition advocating that #FairDealingWorks. Join the campaign and send a letter to your MP and the Ministers responsible for copyright law urging them to support fair dealing for education. 

Digital Locks — Technological Protection Measures (TPMs)

The Copyright Act currently prohibits the circumvention of “digital locks” that prevent the copying of digital works — even if the copying is for a legal purpose such as fair dealing, accessing works in the public domain, archival preservation, or library lending. To ensure Canadians can fully enjoy the legitimate exercise of their user rights, the Copyright Act should be amended to allow digital locks to be circumvented for legal, non-infringing purposes. 

Indigenous Rights

Copyright law, based on western notions of property ownership, is often in conflict with Indigenous understandings on the use, sharing and control of culture and knowledge. Tragically, this has resulted in many Indigenous creators and communities losing control over their heritage. The federal government must ensure First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples can develop and impose their own rules on how the results of their creativity are shared, ensuring that custodianship, dissemination and compensation occur according to their own traditions. 

Crown Copyright

The Copyright Act delays government works from entering the public domain for 50 years. CAUT is calling on the government to take steps to make most government works free of copyright. Removing copyright from government works would bring Canadian government works in line with the Americans for whom the guiding principle is that these works were created by and for the people and should be freely available to the people. 

Allowing government works to go directly into the public domain would allow individuals, corporations and other organizations to make better use of these important and varied resources — including publications from Royal Commissions, government policy documents, historical records, public health information, even Canada’s Food Guide. Removing Crown Copyright would also allow librarians to better fulfill their role as stewards of government records and facilitate Canada’s Open Government initiative.