Pro-Consumer Copyright Decisions Released by the Supreme Court of Canada

Five copyright decisions were released yesterday by the Supreme Court of Canada.  The decisions are generally consumer friendly decisions that will benefit consumers who like to download music from services such as Apple’s iTunes, AmazonMP3, or Spotify, and students who like to have freely available photocopies of educational materials.

In short, the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency and the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada were looking to have additional royalties placed on music downloaded or previewed from music download services, and on music used in downloadable video games.  The Supreme Court decided that no additional royalties were warranted in these circumstances.

Straying from the pro-consumer motif that seemed to permeate the July 12th decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that streaming music from websites constitutes a form of communication or broadcasting.  The Court, therefore, allowed new royalties to be placed on such forms of communication.  The likely effects of this will be an increased cost of business for websites that stream music, such as the CBC.  Whether this increased cost of business will translate to an increased cost to the consumer is yet to be seen.

The only non-music related decision had the Court deciding whether royalties should be placed on photocopies of educational materials when they are used in the classroom.  The result of this decision is that educational institutions will be allowed to reproduce snippets of printed materials for educational purposes.  The Court decided that such reproduction fell within the meaning of “research” contained in the fair dealing provision of the Copyright Act.  This will allow teachers to continue to give photocopies of printed materials to their students instead of requiring them to purchase an entire book for the purpose of reading a single article.

More importantly, though, this decision is pointing to a shift in the jurisprudential treatment of the fair dealing provision in the copyright act.  Some legal scholars are of the opinion that despite the Court’s adherence to the formalistic analytical process that is required by the treatment of the fair dealing provision in case law, the Court is shifting towards treating the “fair dealing” provision more like a more flexible “fair use” system such as those found in the United States or Israel.

The full effects of these decisions will only be realized after the Bill C-11 copyright laws have been argued before the Supreme Court.  Of course, it could take several years before the Supreme Court will hear another case relating to the Copyright Act.  Regardless, it was an interesting and eventful day for Intellectual Property jurisprudence.

Some interesting articles relating to these recent Supreme Court decisions include:


Michael Geist:

Toronto Star:–supreme-court-rules-against-copyright-fees-on-music-videos-printed-matter


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