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oh, for pete’s sake

A campaign to raise funds for cash-strapped Canadian cities has been contemptuously sabotaged by the federal government, who are demanding thousands of dollars in royalties for use of the “copyrighted” image of a Canadian penny and the phrase “one cent.”

[link from the Boing]


The Royal Canadian Mint, a corporation of the federal government, has now demanded that the City of Toronto pay $47,680 for the public education campaign. Included in this amount is a request for $10,000 for the use of the words “one cent” in the campaign website address ( and the campaign email address (, and an additional $10,000 for the use of the words “one cent” in the campaign phone number (416-ONECENT). The remaining $27,680 has been assessed against the City for the use of the image of the Canadian penny in printed materials such as pins and posters. (The Mint has come to this amount by taking the total number of materials printed divided by the approximate population of Toronto, and then using a percentage of that number to arrive at a dollar figure.)

[link from tmcnet]

Web sites:

UPDATE: IP lawyer Howard Knopf writes in Excess Copyright that:
a) the design for the current Canadian penny was done in 1937, by G.E. Kruger Gray, who died in 1943. In Canada, copyright expires 50 years after death of creator, meaning the penny is public domain as of 1993.
b) claiming copyright on the words “one cent” is absurd.


  1. Kristin Kristin 2007-10-07

    What?! The Canadian one cent image has to be in the public domain by now. Plus, “one cent” isn’t really a phrase you can copyright, right? I don’t know anything about Canadian law, but I’m assuming there’s some sort of clause that prevents you from copyrighting common phrases right? Silliness!

  2. Hugh Hugh 2007-10-07

    the Royal Canadian Mint, a crown corporation – meaning a “government-owned, but independent pseudo-business” owns the copyright on the designs of the coins. latest update was probably recent, but in any case, Canada (like England) has this weird thing called Crown Copyright, which has different rules than regular copyright.

    the whole thing stinks, but there you go.

    But the words “One Cent” … yes, that’s absurd.

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