My fair dealing week posts conclude with a look at the link between fair dealing and the fundamental right to read (previous posts focused on the lawsuit to recover overpayments from Access Copyright, the importance of fair dealing for creators, freedom of expression, and news reporting). The critical importance of fair dealing as a user’s right was demonstrated in the 2016 copyright case between the Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based online paywalled news site, and the federal government. Blacklock’s, which has filed multiple lawsuits against government departments, sued the Department of Finance for $17,209.10 over two articles that were sent to government officials from a paying subscriber concerned with comments found in the article. The articles were subsequently forwarded to several media relations personnel within the department.
Post Tagged with: "blacklock’s"
Federal Court Rules Against Blacklock’s: Business Models Always Subject to Copyright Fair Dealing Rights
The Federal Court of Canada issued its much anticipated copyright decision yesterday in the lawsuit launched by Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based online paywalled news site, against many government departments. I discussed the case in a Canadaland podcast earlier this year, highlighting some of Blacklock’s business strategies that include using the access to information system to trace the use of its articles by government subscribers and recipients of articles from third parties. Blacklock’s sued the Department of Finance for $17,209.10 over two articles that were sent to government officials from a paying subscriber concerned with comments found in the article. The articles were subsequently forwarded to several media relations personnel within the department.
The court acknowledged that there are concerns with some of Blacklock’s business practices (the government argued that it engages in copyright trolling), but concluded that it could address the case with only a fair dealing analysis. Affirming well established Supreme Court jurisprudence on fair dealing, the court emphasized that fair dealing is a user’s right that must not be interpreted restrictively. In this case, the court had little trouble finding that the department’s use of the articles qualified as fair dealing given that it was done for a proper research purpose, involved a limited distribution, the originals were obtained legally by a paying subscriber, and officials had a legitimate interest in reading the articles in order to hold Blacklock’s to account for questionable reporting.
Does asking a friend for a copy of a newspaper article from a subscription website constitute copyright infringement? According to an Ottawa small claims court, it does.
The court recently issued a deeply flawed copyright ruling, providing a timely warning about the dangers of Canada’s restrictive digital lock rules that were enacted by the Conservatives over the strong objection of many copyright watchers.
My weekly technology law column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) notes that the case involved the president of the Canadian Vintners Association (CVA), who received an email from Blacklock’s Reporter, an Ottawa-based political publication, advising that he was quoted in an article discussing a recent appearance before a House of Commons committee. The man did not subscribe to the publication, which places its content behind a paywall, so he contacted a member of the association who was a subscriber and asked if he could see a copy of the article. When Blacklock’s Reporter learned that he had received a copy from the subscriber, it demanded that he pay for a full subscription or face a copyright infringement lawsuit.