J. Copyright, Intellectual Property, and Access


In Canada, "copyright" means "the right to copy." In general, only the copyright owner, often the creator of the work, is allowed to produce or reproduce the work or to permit anyone else to do so. Canadian Copyright law protects creative endeavours by ensuring that the creator has the sole right to authorize their publication, performance or reproduction.

Although copyright in a work exists automatically when an original work is created, a certificate of registration is evidence that your creation is protected by copyright and that you, the person registered, are the owner. It can be used in court as evidence of ownership.


In Canada, Intellectual Property is defined as “the legal rights that result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields.” Intellectual property establishes a right and identifies ownership of intellectual creativity.

The issue of whether there is adequate protection for indigenous cultural heritage and intellectual property is an important topic amongst First Nations communities. Indigenous intellectual property consists of the intangible ideas and knowledge associated with artistic works and designs and other forms of cultural expression such as music, dance, song and story.

Indigenous people stress the strong connections between intellectual and cultural property and other parts of their cultural heritage, particularly to country and their sense of identity. Indigenous rights in cultural and intellectual property include the right to determine its nature and extent in accordance with their laws and customs, the right to manage and control it, and the right to exclude others from access to and use of this property.


Access to copyrighted material and intellectual property of First Nations communities can be regulated through a number of methods ranging from highly restrictive (i.e. All rights reserved by Copyright holder) to fairly lenient (i.e. CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike - This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms):

Canadian Copyright

Canadian Intellectual Property Office

You can protect your original creative works with standard Canadian copyright, which applies the moment you record the work. Others will need a license to make more than minimal (or “fair dealing”) copies. Copyright also protects against performance and modification.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation. There is no registration to use the Creative Commons licenses. Licensing a work is as consists of selecting which of the six licenses best meets the community’s goals, and then marking the material so that others know that you have chosen to release the work under the terms of that license.

Murkutu’s Traditional Knowledge Licences

Mukurtu is a community-oriented digital archive and content management platform that takes the unique cultural heritage needs of indigenous communities as its focus. Traditional Knowledge licenses (TKL) recognize that Indigenous communities have different access and use expectations in regards to their cultural material and traditional cultural expressions. In particular the TKL are designed to identify and clarify which material has community-specific, gendered and high-level restrictions.. Additionally, these licenses recognize that use of specific material might require special permission and appropriate acknowledgement of the source community.

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