Canadian Consulting Engineer

Engineering firms advised on their rights to retain copyright

February 12, 2007
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

Consulting Engineers of Ontario is reminding its members that the use of their drawings or other documents beyond t...

Consulting Engineers of Ontario is reminding its members that the use of their drawings or other documents beyond the scope of a specific project is not permitted by copyright law. For example if a client reuses the consulting engineers’ design for other sites, then the consultant should receive royalties.
The CEO Advisory to members dated December 12, 2006 explains that copyright is automatic upon creation of a work. The author is the first owner of the work, or the employer when the work is created during the course of the author’s employment. And while copyright can be registered under the federal Copyright Act, it need not be.
A consultant could agree to transfer the ownership of the documents to the client, but unless the consultant also specifically assigns the copyright in those documents to the client, the consultant retains the copyright.
The advisory says that CEO “opposes contract language that transfers the rights to the intellectual property of the consultant to third parties.” At the same time, CEO acknowledges that it may be appropriate in some cases to grant a licence to the owner to use the drawings, specifications etc. in order to operate and maintain the asset on an ongoing basis.
CEO generally recommends that the consultant/client agreements reflect the wording in either ACEC Document 31, or the standard MEA/CEO Agreement for Municipal Works relative to intellectual property. “These documents,” says the advisory, “recognize the consultant’s intellectual property rights while allowing intellectual property to be licensed to an owner or client for the specific purposes of the project (such as operations, maintenance and management of the asset.”
If a consultant retains the copyright in its engineering documents or other written materials, CEO suggests that a copyright legend and appropriate wording appear on the document.
The advisory is CEO Advisory No. 06/007, Intellectual Property Rights of Consultants. It was prepared with input from Blaney McMurtry and Consulting Engineers of B.C.


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