Getting to Know Ann Carlsen, Instructor for Editors BC’s Upcoming Seminar, Copyright for Editors

Interview by Marta Orellana; copy edited by Taisha Garby

Editors BC is pleased to welcome Ann Carlsen for the upcoming professional development seminar, “Copyright for Editors.

Ann has been practicing law in British Columbia since 1991 and specializes in intellectual property law. 

Find out more about Ann, her expertise in copyright laws, and about the Editors BC seminar.

Can you tell us a little bit about your hobbies, passions, and your favourite way to spend a day off?

I am now semi-retired, so I have time to do all the things I didn’t have time for when I was practicing law full time.

I am involved in my community as president of the Coquitlam Heritage Society. We now run Mackin House (a mid-1920s house), and a train station and caboose. What is most exciting is that we are planning a heritage centre that explores and celebrates the heritage of Coquitlam.

I am also president of the Friends of the Coquitlam Public Library Society, an organization that fundraises for the library.

I am the community representative on the SFU animal care committee, a committee that works to ensure that any experimental animals are well cared for and suffer as little as possible.

In my spare time (what little I have left), I love to garden and do crafts such as sewing (from curtains to period costumes), quilting, and any other craft that takes my fancy. When COVID first hit, I volunteered to sew masks and doctors’ examination coats.

I also have a standard poodle, Quantum, who is four, and has me well trained.

How did you get first get started in your career?

I took a long route to a law practice concentrating in intellectual property law.

When I left high school, I wanted to help people, as many women do, so I entered the social work program at the University of Windsor. After the first year, I realized this was not for me, so I transferred to a general BA with a major in sociology, and minor in political science.

It was then I realized the power of the law, and the importance of the rule of law in maintaining a society that supports people.

I decided I wanted to learn more and change the laws to support the less fortunate (need I say that this was in the late 60s and early 70s?) 

When I graduated, I joined the Policy Advisory Group in the Ministry of Community and Social Services. By then I was married, and my husband, an engineering physicist, was offered a job in the USA at MIT. I went back to school in Boston and graduated with both an MSc in Systems Management (equivalent to an MBA) and a JD.

It was at the law school that I was introduced to intellectual property (IP) by the lawyer who managed Gillette’s intellectual property portfolio; and I was hooked.

When we returned to Canada, I was employed by a large law firm in Vancouver, Swinton and Company. There was only one lawyer practicing in the area of intellectual property, and whenever he needed help, I volunteered. When he left, I became the intellectual property lawyer.

What piqued your interest in intellectual property law, specifically?

Intellectual property is, in my opinion, the most intellectually stimulating of all areas of law. The law is always being updated, and the subject matter is always changing and always interesting.

Most importantly, the clients are interesting and enthusiastic about their intellectual property. I have represented artists, writers, inventors, and people who are excited about their intellectual property. I am able to provide information to clients on how to protect their IP by a variety of methods.

I still get excited discussing the protection of IP.

What are some copyright issues that you see arising the most in your experience advising/teaching writers and editors?

The main copyright issues that writers and editors have relate to the following areas: can I use this content and how I can I protect my work?

The question on whether certain content created by others can be used is often complex and may involve the copyright owned by others or personality rights (for instance in biographies or photographs).

The question of protecting a writer or editor’s rights in the work relates to the type of work, the degree of the contribution if more than one person is involved in the creation, and written agreements related to the work.

Of course, the Copyright Act is an integral part of the equation, including registration of copyright.

What do you hope seminar attendees will take away from your presentation?

I hope that the attendees will see that copyright is an extraordinary concept. It literally “springs into existence” when an original work is put into a fixed form. From then on, it is an understanding of how copyright applies to a particular work.

I hope that attendees will leave with an understanding of Canadian copyright law, and how best to protect their works. More importantly, the attendees will have an understanding of where possible infringement of another’s copyright can happen, and how to address any potential problems, for instance by getting permission.

I also will also dispel some common myths about copyright. One of my favourite (or least favourite) myths is “poor man’s copyright” by mailing it to your self—please don’t do it! 

I am excited to be able to discuss this very interesting topic to a group whose main product is protected by copyright. I am certain that everyone will have had copyright issues and questions related to their work. I intend to leave plenty of time to answer questions that may arise during the sessions. 

Thank you, Ann. We look forward to learning from you at the upcoming seminar!


Marta Orellana lives in North Vancouver, BC. She is a copy editor, translator and proofreader, specializing in Web writing and editing as well as academic and technical writing. Marta is also a French Immersion teacher and a polyglot, whose love of language is what has driven her appreciation for the written word.

Taisha Garby is a freelance proofreader and copy editor. She has an undergraduate degree in Classical Studies from the University of Victoria, and an Editing Certificate and a Master of Publishing from Simon Fraser University. Previously she worked at Greystone Books where she reviewed incoming submissions for quality and suitability.

Image provided by Ann Carlsen

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