How to Retain Ownership of Your Music in Canada

Co-Written and Researched by Tyler Anthony


If you’re researching the music industry, you’ve probably stumbled upon works for hire agreements, which can help you retain ownership over artistic works when you hire contractors.

In a work for hire agreement, the hiring artist becomes the legal author and the contractor has no legal right to any of the work; the contractor’s name won’t even make it to the copyright registration form.

Canadian musicians don’t have the luxury of using works for hire agreements, which are creatures of the American copyright regime.

In this article, we discuss the equivalent intellectual property rules in Canada, then explain how to retain ownership of your music when you work with contractors.

Intellectual Property Law in Canada

To avoid having to share ownership rights, Canadian artists should clearly describe the intellectual property situation in their employment or contractor agreements.

Generally speaking, Canadian employers are deemed to own copyrights to any work created by their employees. On the other hand, independent contractors are deemed to own any work that they create, but this right can be overridden by a written contract.

Contract Language for Canadian Musicians

In Canada, when an artist and a contractor create a song, beat, or instrumental composition together, both artists share ownership over the song.

Joint ownership often creates challenges when artists start looking for record deals or try registering their work with a Performing Rights Organization like SOCAN.

In Canada, you can include a number of items into your contractor or employment agreements to prevent ownership problems over your musical works. Your agreements should include, at minimum:

  • Assignment of all intellectual property generated by the employee or contractor during their tenure of employment to the hiring artist.

To best protect your intellectual property as a musician, we recommend consulting an experienced entertainment lawyer.



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