As reported by CBC News, a Canadian musician has discovered that the Royal Canadian Mint vigorously patrols its copyright in Canadian coin currency:
Halifax folk musician Dave Gunning wanted to pay tribute to the soon-to-vanish Canadian penny in song with his upcoming album No More Pennies.
But the Royal Canadian Mint was not happy about the image of the Canadian penny he is using on the album cover. It says Gunning is contravening copyright and must pay a fee.
For every 2000 copies of the album he creates he has to fill out an application, wait for approval and be charged $1,200.
As we had previously noted here on the Signal (Question and Answer: Do I Need Permission to Film Canadian Currency?), both the Bank of Canada and the Royal Canadian Mint have policies relating to the use in entertainment products of their intellectual property rights in paper notes (for which copyright is owned by the Bank) and in coin currency (for which copyright is owned by the Mint).
When it comes to using paper notes in commercial entertainment-related media (be it a film, TV show, book or album cover), the Bank’s policy on the Use of Bank Note Images sets a default rule that “anyone wishing to reproduce bank note images first obtain the Bank’s written permission“. However, an exception applies to use of bank note images in film and TV projects:
“Permission is not required for film or video productions showing a general indication of currency and where there is no danger of images contributing to counterfeiting (e.g., for a television commercial).”
The Mint’s Intellectual Property Policy is more restrictive in that it contains no exemption for any entertainment-related undertakings: all uses of Mint copyright require permission (subject to any fair dealing rights, of course). The Mint’s IP policy is also helpfully very detailed: it addresses matter such as the parameters for royalties rates, educational uses and the policy objectives the Mint is seeking to accomplish by having the policy in place.
Dave Gunning’s website has an image of the front cover of his album No More Pennies, though, based on the news report it seems likely that is the back cover which is what tripped the Mint’s Spidey-sense:
The image on the front cover of the CD is of a person sitting at a lunch counter trying to scrape up enough change to pay for his cup of coffee, while on the back is a sunset with the sun as a penny setting below the horizon. Inside is a lithograph of an old steam train and the wheels of the train are little pennies.
The Mint has evidently waived any requirement to pay a fee on the first 2,000 copies sold of the album, but will require a payment for additional copies. As the CBC reports, “Gunning has launched a penny drive, requesting that fans bring pennies to his fall shows so he can afford to issue his album.”