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Copyright for Animation

Copyright is automatically granted to any original work in a fixed format. Copies made in any format are covered by copyright.

LITERARY works such as books, pamphlets, computer programs and other works consisting of text. This includes fonts, which are computer renderings of typeface made available through software (which is written code). Typeface is NOT copyrightable. 

DRAMATIC works such as motion picture films, plays, screenplays and scripts.

MUSICAL works such as compositions with or without words. Both the music and the lyrics are copyrightable.

ARTISTIC works such as paintings, drawings, maps, photographs, sculptures and architectural plans. Fashion designs are NOT copyrightable. In the US, buildings constructed before Dec 1, 1990 are protected even as subjects of photographs (which would be considered a derivative work). In Canada, architectural constructions do not have this protection (See Copyright Act, Micellaneous 32.2 (1)).  

PERFORMANCES, meaning any of the following:

  • a performance of an artistic, dramatic or musical work

  • a recitation or reading of a literary work

  • an improvisation of a dramatic, musical or literary work

SOUND RECORDINGS, meaning recordings consisting of sounds, whether or not a performance of a work. This would include podcasts.

COMMUNICATION SIGNALS, meaning radio waves transmitted through space, for reception by the public. 

Copyright also covers derivative works.

What is a derivative work?

Any work that is based on a copyrighted work and recognizable as such. If a work has been changed sufficiently, it may be considered a new, original work, but there is no clear test for originality.

Examples of derivative works:

  • art based on literary or dramatic work, e.g. fan art
  • translations
  • novelizations of dramatic works or dramatizations of literary works
  • performances of literary or dramatic texts

If you're interested in this topic, you can read more about derivative works here.

What is not covered by copyright?

From A Guide to Copyright (Canadian Intellectual Property Office):

There are work products that despite being literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic creations cannot be protected by copyright. These include ideas, facts, short and one-word titles, and works that are not fixed in a material form (i.e works that have not been written down or recorded in a somewhat permanent digital format). Additionally, works which are unoriginal (i.e, works which do not require skills and judgment to create) cannot be protected by copyright law.

Of potential interest to animators, fashion and typeface are not covered by copyright. However, logos on fashion are protected by trademark, and fonts (typeface rendered on a computer) are protected by copyright.