Permission No Longer Required Re Government of Canada Copyright

Section 12 of the Copyright Act gives the Crown copyright in any work “prepared or published by or under the direction or control of Her Majesty or any government department…” This broad sweep is considered, by the federal and provincial governments at least, to include court and tribunal judgments and legislation. The issue of whether this is appropriate or not has been somewhat finessed (albeit in a question-begging way) so far as federal legal material goes by the 1998 Reproduction of Federal Law Order SI/97-5 providing that:

Anyone may, without charge or request for permission, reproduce enactments and consolidations of enactments of the Government of Canada, and decisions and reasons for decisions of federally-constituted courts and administrative tribunals…

(For a good discussion of this area, see “The Impact of Crown Copyright on Access to Law-Related Information” [PDF] by Ted Tjaden, which is Chapter 4 of his thesis, available on Slaw.)

Other government publications might be copied or published, if permission was granted from the Crown Copyright and Licensing service. Recently, however, that agency has announced that now permission is no longer required:

…to reproduce Government of Canada works, in part or in whole, and by any means, for personal or public non-commercial purposes, or for cost-recovery purposes… unless otherwise specified in the material you wish to reproduce.

This general license is for personal and non-commercial use of unaltered material, with attribution.


  1. I wonder if this will lead to pressure on the provinces to join the \waive\. It’s going to be a bit confusing for students and other citizens who won’t necessarily care about the distinction between federal government documents and provincial publications.

  2. Derek G. Graham OLS OLIP

    The Canadian Copyright Act, at present, does not appear to specifically “bind the Crown” as it is set out in Australia.

    In it was a factor.

    From Australia’s Copyright Act:

    Section 7 Act to bind the Crown
    Subject to Part VII, this Act binds the Crown but nothing in this Act renders the Crown liable to be prosecuted for an offence

  3. How would this apply to the Government of the Northwest Territories logo?

    Could I use this image on promotional items?

    Thank you.

  4. Sean, while we cannot give out legal advice from this blog, as a non-lawyer my guess would be that would fall under trademark law, not copyright law, so not relevant. I don’t know if a parallel argument could be made. You would have to check with a lawyer familiar with intellectual property law.

  5. Frankly, I’d err on the side of obtaining permission for everything. I’d rather spend the time getting permission unnecessarily instead of spending even more time apologizing to my employer for provoking litigation.

  6. Thank you for the helpful responses. I will seek more information.

  7. As a regular contributor to Wikipedia, I find this of particular interest. My understanding is that various texts are legal to publish on Wikipedia (statutes,court decisions), but images, such as those of Members of Parliament, are not.