The Canadian copyright review conducted earlier this year heard evidence on a remarkably broad range of issues. One issue that seemed to take committee members by surprise was crown copyright, which captured considerable attention and became the subject of two supplemental opinions from the Conservative and NDP members as well as the basis for a private members bill from NDP MP Brian Masse. Why all the interest in crown copyright?
This week’s Lawbytes podcast digs into crown copyright with two guests. First, Amanda Wakaruk, a copyright librarian at the University of Alberta and one of the country’s leading advocates on the issue joins me to explain the concept of crown copyright and why she thinks it needs to be abolished. I’m then joined by my colleague Professor Jeremy DeBeer to discuss the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision on Keatley Surveying v. Teranet, which was on the first opportunities for Canada’s highest court to grapple with the scope and implications of crown copyright.
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The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments yesterday in the copyright case of CBC v. SODRAC. While the case was ultimately about whether CBC should be required to pay royalties for incidental copies necessary to use new broadcast technologies, at stake was something far bigger: the future of technological neutrality under Canadian copyright law.
CBC argued that technological neutrality means that it should not pay for incidental copies since it already pays for the use of music in broadcasts. The incidental copies – copies which are made to create the final broadcast version of a program (including copies from the master to a content management system or other internal copies to facilitate the broadcast) – do not generate revenue and are simply made to facilitate use of the music that is paid for through a licence. SODRAC, a Quebec-based copyright collective, countered that CBC had always paid for these copies and that the CBC argument was the reverse of technological neutrality, since it wanted to avoid payment in the digital world for copies that were being paid for with earlier, analog technologies.
The case emerged as an important one when the question of the meaning of technological neutrality took centre stage. That elicited interveners such as Music Canada, which argued for a narrow interpretation of the principle, claiming that it was just an “interpretative metaphor” (similar arguments about users’ rights being no more than a metaphor were rejected by the Supreme Court in 2012). The danger in the case from a technological neutrality perspective is that the Supreme Court could roll back its finding that technological neutrality is a foundational principle within the law. Moreover, if the court were to rule that all copies – no matter how incidental – are copies for the purposes of the Copyright Act, there would be the very real possibility of payment demands for the myriad of copies that occur through modern technologies.
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This week I wrote about the need for reform of the Copyright Board of Canada. Copyright collective management is addressed in two chapters of The Copyright Pentalogy: How the Supreme Court of Canada Shook the Foundations of Canadian Copyright Law, an effort by many of Canada’s leading copyright scholars to begin the process of examining the long-term implications of the copyright pentalogy. As I’ve noted in previous posts, the book is available for purchase and is also available as a free download under a Creative Commons licence. The book can be downloaded in its entirety or each of the 14 chapters can be downloaded individually.
First, the complexity of copyright collective management is a recurring theme in debates over whether the Copyright Board of Canada, the Copyright Act and industry practice result in multiple payments for use of the same works. Jeremy de Beer describes this as “copyright royalty stacking” in his important chapter that unpacks “the layering of multiple payments for permission – through a certified tariff, collective blanket license or individual contract-to use copyright – protected subject matter.”
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Following on its article on copyright and culture, the Globe hosted an excellent discussion on Bill C-32 with my colleague Jeremy deBeer and Queens prof Sidneyeve Matrix.
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The National Post ran an op-ed from my colleague Jeremy deBeer on the copyright consultation. deBeer argues that the keys to reform are respect and an acknowledgement of current realities.
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