Tag Archives: Royal-Canadian-Mint

The penny isn’t free

You know, I thought our government had some common sense when it came to copyright and intellectual property laws.

BoingBoing and BlogTO point to a complaint from the City of Toronto’s One Cent Now campaign for getting one cent out of the six-cent-per-dollar GST to be given to cities. Apparently the Royal Canadian Mint considers the design of the penny and the words “one cent” to be its property and is charging the campaign over $47,000 for the right to use them on its website.

Because the Mint is a crown corporation and not government directly, it can own intellectual property and charge for its use, even when that property is literally in the hands and pockets of millions of people.

In the U.S. and other countries, they don’t have this problem. Unless an image on a coin was licensed from an artist (say, it was a portrait of Elvis or something), it’s considered public domain and people can use them as they wish (so long as they’re not counterfeiting).

Even if the Mint is right in asserting its control over the image on the penny (and I don’t think it should), its request is ridiculous. No one will mistake the One Cent Now site for that of the Canadian Mint, and they’re not selling T-shirts with the penny on them. It’s political speech, and they’re justified in calling this a slap in the face.

UPDATE (Oct. 9): Datalibre.ca makes the case that even if the image of the penny was subject to copyright, it expired years ago.