An Oshawa, Ontario Regional Councillor, Robert Lutczyk, recently made a brazen attempt to claim copyright in the name “University of Ontario Institute of Technology”. Lutczyk registered copyright in the name of the University and then tried to use his registration to prevent the publication "Oshawa This Week" from using the name in an article, threatening legal action if they did not comply. Lutczyk’s attempt to assert copyright appears wrong on several points.
First, there is no copyright in a name. Copyright in Canada is governed by the Copyright Act and arises in literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works. A name, without more, does not fall under the definition of a work.
Second, a registration does not prove copyright. Claims of copyright are not verified by the Copyright Office. Copyright can be registered simply by sending an application to the Copyright Office with the appropriate fee. While a certificate of registration from the Copyright Office is evidence that a work is protected by copyright, registration cannot create copyright where none exists.
Third, even if Lutczyk held copyright in the name, he could not prevent its publication in a news article. This type of use is protected under the “fair dealing” provisions of the Copyright Act (provided the author is credited).
Lutczyk may have confused copyright with trade-mark rights, which do provide protection for names (although still not the type of protection that he was trying to invoke). As one might expect, the trade-mark UNIVERSITY OF ONTARIO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY, is owned by the University, so Lutczyk would not be able to benefit from such protection.
Lutczyk’s aggressive stance in attempting to prevent publication of the University’s name will, no doubt, do nothing to improve the failing grade assigned to him this year by Metroland Durham Region Media Group. He has once again missed the mark.