Copyright: Implications for Fair Dealing in the Supreme Court of Canada

13 July 2012: Like Australia, Canadian copyright law has its origins in English law.  The Copyright Modernization Act 2012 will introduce new permissible fair dealing purposes of education, parody and satire into Canadian law.  The impact of these new exceptions will be even greater following the Supreme Court of Canada’s broad interpretation of fair dealing in two decisions handed down on 12 July.

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, et al. v. Bell Canada, et al. [2012] SCC 36

Some commercial Internet sites allow users to preview excerpts of works before purchase (eg. Apple’s iTunes store). In regard to online music services, a preview is an excerpt (usually 30 seconds or less) of a sound recording that can be streamed so that consumers may decide whether to purchase a download. On October 18, 2007, the Board released a decision, part of which, rejected SOCAN’s proposal to place a tariff on previews. The board reasoned that this constituted fair dealing, as the users were conducting consumer research. 

Section 29 of the Canadian Copyright Act contains an exception for fair dealing for the purposes of research or private study, similar to sections 40 and 103C of the Australian Copyright Act allowing fair dealing for the purposes of research or study.

The question before the Court was whether these previews constituted fair dealing for the purposes of research.

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal. Analysing whether the previews were provided for the purpose of research, the Court stated that “research” need not be for creative purposes only, and that the term must be given a large and liberal interpretation. The Court determined that the provision of the previews was a fair dealing because the process did not adversely affect the purchase of the music.

You can read the full decision here:

Full story here.

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