Supreme Court Grants Leave to Hear Song Previews as Fair Dealing Case

Fair dealing is heading back to the Supreme Court of Canada.  This morning, the court granted leave to hear an appeal of SOCAN v. Bell Canada, the case in which the Federal Court of Appeal confirmed that 30 second song previews can constitute fair dealing under the Copyright Act since they constitute consumer research.  My initial post on the earlier decision can be found here.


  1. It’s simple cause and effect, if I can’t preview it I won’t buy it. My days of buying music unheard are gone. The days of buying CDs from a band for the sole reason that I have others are gone. I want to have some assemblance of confidence that I’m going to actually like and listen to what I purchase. Not being able to preview will hurt sales. SOCAN is still living in the past, hoping for the “glory days” to return. Good luck with that.

    I read an article a while back talking about consumer habit surrounding the consumption of music over time. Back in the early days, but after wax drum, 78RPM records were all the rave and could hold 3 – 4 minutes of music per side, these were effectively singles. After several failed attempts, beginning in the 30s, the LP and the 45 single was successfuly adopted in the late 40’s. By the 60’s and in to the 70’s single 45s had become incredibly popular…mnay people only wanted the song they heard on the radio. Starting in the 70’s and going in to the 90’s we had the cassette, again a rise in popularity of the album over the single. This trend continued with CD. The article suggested that now, with digital downloads, we’re heading back in to a “singles” phase where people more often only want certain songs over the entire album. I tend to agree.

    (Yes, I skipped 8-track tapes, which was primarily only used in North America)

  2. @IanME: “if I can’t preview it I won’t buy it. My days of buying music unheard are gone.”


    If I were an online music vendor I would remove from my site all the previews for all the albums of the members of “SCAM Publishers”, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.


  3. Could it be?
    Perhaps they are afraid people will refuse to buy the boat load of ‘carp’ that they hope to sell site unseen (or heard)? Out of all this I am hopeful there will be less of the canned tunes lumped upon us and more actual talent floating to to the top through open sharing and social networks.

    Wouldn’t that be a nice way to spread love, hope and cheer?

  4. @Crockett:

    Nah, what the “SCAM Publishers” really wanted was royalties on previews.


  5. @Nap “Nah, what the “SCAM Publishers” really wanted was royalties on previews.”

    Really? I guess I should not be surprised. Do they think people are actually trolling amazon for the first 30 secs of songs just to get their music fix? How does this constitute a reason for royalties? They should be paying Amazon for advertising!

    If everyone wasn’t so blasted greedy there would be better respect and returns. The contnent industry has to be one of the worst.

  6. @Crockett: “Do they think people are actually trolling amazon for the first 30 secs of songs just to get their music fix?”

    No, but it would had been nice if they could have Amazon pay them money every time someone clicked on a preview….

    Nice “business model” for an “additional revenue stream”, eh?


  7. @Napalm:

    If the vendors remove all tracks, that will be an incitations for people to illegally download music. Now the SOCAN will have a good reason to scream and add their “I must be guilty” tax.

    These guys are out of touch with the technology. 30 seconds preview is an incitations to buy the music and should be seen as an opportunity. But I guess that there trying to squeeze any money they could from anybody listening to music and the artist won’t see a dime more.


  8. David Collier-Brown says:

    I’m now buying only reference books that have full-text on line
    IamME said: if I can’t preview it I won’t buy it.

    I quite agree. The last two technical books I bought were on-line in their entirety (on Java and XML) and therefor searchable and readable at my convenience. So bought both, to read them in their entirety.

    All other books I sample by the simple expedient of going to the bricks-and-mortar bookstore, picking them up, reading a random bit from inside and then looking at the blurb.

    Methinks that’s why physical bookstores exist: if you deal with them, you’re not buying a pig in a poke.


  9. David Allsebrook says:

    What about private non-commercial use?
    Since the Supreme Court has already told us in the CCH case not to parse the “research” exception to infringement down into subtypes of research, the decision is more illustrative than precedential.

    Perhaps what is most interesting is what the Federal Court of Appeal did not say. Under section 80 of the Copyright Act, is is not an infringement of copyright for an individual to make a copy of an entire musical work for non-commercial use. In addition, users pay for this copy by a tariff which is already levied upon them in the purchase price of blank CDs. There would seem to be available arguments that there is no point in fussing over a fraction when the whole is exempted anyway, and that a new tariff could be seen as double recovery.

  10. While I agree that the previews should be covered under the “fair use” exemption (in particular if the preview consists of a work consists always of the same portion of the work), I suspect that SOCAN’s complaint in this case is about the Board adding the fair use exemption to its deliberations and the way in which it applied the third fair dealing criteria, amount of dealing. Have a look at paras 10 and 11, and paras 24 through 30, of the FCA’s decision.