The Federal Court of Canada has issued an important decision involving copyright and posting content online. The case involves a lawsuit launched by Richard Warman and the National Post against Mark and Constance Fournier, who run the FreeDominion website. Warman and the National Post sued the site over the appearance of two articles and an inline link to photograph that appeared on the forum. The court dismissed all three claims.
While the first claim (Warman’s article) was dismissed on the basis that it took too long to file the lawsuit, the legal analysis on the National Post claim involving an article by Jonathan Kay assesses the copyright implications of posting several paragraphs from an article online. In this case, the article was 11 paragraphs long. The reproduction on the Free Dominion site included the headline, three complete paragraphs and part of a fourth. The court ruled that this amount of copying did not constitute a “substantial part” of the work and therefore there was no infringement. The court added that in the alternative, the reproduction of the work was covered by fair dealing, concluding that a large and liberal interpretation of news reporting would include posts to the discussion forum. The decision then includes an analysis of the six factor test and concludes that the use was fair.
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The House of Commons may have passed Bill C-11, but the constitutional concerns with the copyright bill and its digital lock rules will likely linger for years. Many experts believe that the government’s decision to adopt one of the most restrictive digital lock approaches in the world – it creates potential liability without actual copyright infringement – renders the provision vulnerable to constitutional challenge.
The Department of Justice’s take on the constitutional concerns has long been the subject of speculation, yet the legal opinion is protected by solicitor-client privilege. However, late last week I received records from an Industry Canada access to information request that includes the internal departmental analysis of digital lock rules that was prepared in advance of Bill C-32. The document includes a summary of the Department of Justice legal opinion, information on other Justice legal opinions, and details of concerns raised internally by the Competition Bureau (the Competition Bureau concerns will be discussed in a separate post tomorrow). The net result is that the document confirms that there were concerns within Industry Canada and from the Department of Justice about the constitutionality of the digital lock approach. According to Industry Canada’s analysis:
TPMs may raise some concerns under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, especially with respect to the freedom of expression entailing the right to access information. For instance, provisions prohibiting the circumvention of DVD regional coding may violate the Charter where the user seeks to access information that is consistent with the rights (s)he may have purchased and where no copyright infringement occurs (N.B. Notwithstanding the potential constitutional invalidity of anti-circumvention provisions re. regional coding, the circumvention may nonetheless be unauthorized and therefore unlawful under applicable contractual terms).
The key source document is a legal opinion dated March 2, 2007, from the Department of Justice on the “assessment of potential Charter risks of prohibiting the act of circumvention of access-control TPMs and the provision of services or sale of devices to circumvent any kind of TPM.” The opinion, which was likely updated for Bill C-11, is described in the Industry Canada summary as follows:
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U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson appeared on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday and characterized last week as “one of the most extraordinary weeks in the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Canada.” Asked to justify the statement, he identified four developments: the Detroit bridge, Bill C-11, TPP, and the […]
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