The Watch Tower Society, used by the Jehovah's Witnesses to promote religious worship, has sued a Canadian website for posting religious works online. The statement of claim (TIFF format) argues both copyright infringement (for the materials posted online) as well as trademark infringement (for the use of the domain watchtower.ca).
A quick review of the site suggests that the creator is very aware of Canadian copyright law as it features dozens of quotations but only limited full-text. Moreover, the full-text that does appear on the site seems to be older works that are now in the public domain. The site provides a full disclaimer and features a copyright notice that the materials are for private study and research purposes.
The Statement of Claim outlines six reasons why the Society believes the content on the site should not be treated as fair dealing. These include (i) alleged trademark infringement with the domain name; (ii) alleged misleading conduct with use of trademarked terms in the meta-tags; (iii) the reproduction of thousands of pages of materials; (iv) the reproduction of dozens of articles; (v) the absence of restrictions on the use of the site; and (vi) the creation of a search engine to search materials on the site.
It is difficult to speculate whether this case will proceed to trial, but, if it does, it would provide an interesting opportunity to see how the principles articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada with respect to user rights are treated in the online environment. In breaking down the fair dealing argument, it is difficult to see how the trademark complaints are relevant to the analysis. Similarly, the absence of restrictions on the site and the availability of a search engine don't provide compelling reasons to lose a user right. The remaining two issues, which amount to claims of too much copying, will likely be the bigger questions and they turn on a legal analysis of evidence yet to be presented. A cursory review suggests that much of the content would be viewed as fair dealing since there are a large number of limited length quotations that would benefit from the SCC's liberal interpretation of fair dealing.
One side note: there should be no surprise that a claim was not launched under CIRA' s CDRP since this is clearly not a case of cybersquatting. Despite claims that the site is being used to embarrass the religion, the CDRP would likely treat this site as a good faith (no pun intended) use of the domain.