Meera Nair

Posts Tagged ‘fair dealing’

in defense of fair dealing

In Posts on January 18, 2016 at 5:18 am

A response to Heather Menzies and the Globe and Mail.

Last Thursday, the Globe and Mail published an op/ed penned by author Heather Menzies, chair of The Writers’ Union of Canada. Ms. Menzies claims that a provision of law, fair dealing, is responsible for a decline in the income and well-being of Canadian authors. While she is perfectly entitled to her opinion, her argument is based on a number of inaccuracies.

At the outset, it must be noted that the system of copyright, since its inception as statutory law in 1710, was never intended to operate as a grant of absolute control. Rights offered in the name of copyright were limited, for the vital reason that the goals of the system of copyright (creativity and innovation) rely on some degree of unauthorized uses of prior works. The mantra that more control brings about more creativity is no more than political theatre; the age of Shakespeare, the industrial revolution, and even the 20th century offer enough evidence that creativity has thrived in periods of lesser control. Nevertheless, fair dealing enthusiasts will agree that it is as important to respect the rights afforded to authors, as to respect the use provided to future authors via fair dealing.

Ms. Menzies writes: “Authors have always made copyright legislation work for them, even though it originated in a 16th-century move to restrict the right to copy texts to the Stationers’ Company, a booksellers’ cartel based in London, England, and had nothing to do with writers.” It is true that copyright’s entrance into law was at the behest of booksellers eager to protect their assets, not necessarily their authors. Yet some authors obliged with the trope of the starving author during negotiations. In the three hundred years since, with the same trope, the rights of control in the system of copyright were systematically expanded, while the rights of unauthorized use were inexorably whittled away. Given that, at the present time, copyright is more expansive in breadth and depth than it has ever been, if authors are still starving, perhaps copyright is neither the problem, nor the solution.

As to the role of collective licensing in the management of educational uses of copyrighted material throughout Canada, it is true that Access Copyright facilitated this effort in the past. As to why post-secondary institutions no longer wish to rely on Access Copyright’s services, Ms. Menzies omits to indicate that in 2010 Access Copyright sought a 1300% increase in fees, demanded absurdly intrusive reporting requirements from institutions, and took it upon itself to redefine the very nature of copyright. (A privilege that Parliament, and no other, enjoys.) Yet post-secondary institutions continue to spend millions of dollars in purchasing and licensing fees, and make these payments directly to copyright owners. As to where those funds go after that point, it is not for an institution to say.

Furthermore, even though “education” was added to the allowable purposes of fair dealing through the amendments which came into force in 2012, three Supreme Court decisions upholding fair dealing in teaching and learning, and research, were all based upon the earlier language of fair dealing. That detail is also omitted in Ms. Menzies’ account. Instead, she opts to equate the decline of authors’ incomes with the later expansion of fair dealing and invokes a PricewaterhouseCoopers study to present dire consequences for education in Canada in the years ahead.

That study, commissioned by Access Copyright, was based upon very narrow parameters. (I provide analysis in “With due respect to PricewaterhouseCoopers.”) The study focuses upon revenue streams within the educational publishing industry and finds that revenue has declined over recent years. This observation is correlated to heightened attention paid to fair dealing by educational institutions, arriving at the seeming causality that fair dealing is to blame. Whereas in reality, there are more options for obtaining quality content at lesser or no cost. Teachers may avail themselves of publicly available material from the internet, open-access content, and material expressly developed by other teachers and local communities. As with any market, when more options are available, former monopolies must see their market-share decline. And lurking in the background of recent trends was nothing less than the global economic mayhem that began in 2008, which ensured that, across all walks of life, individuals and institutions had less money to spend. Yet the study’s authors appear unaware, or unconcerned, about larger macroeconomic conditions.

Finally, Ms. Menzies invokes the realm of First Nations’ writings and the importance of protecting their writers. No argument there. Our pantheon of writers is worthy of praise and we all benefit when that roster swells. Yet Ms. Menzies will not acknowledge that of the writers we laud today, many enjoyed their public education before the mania to count the number of words a teacher or librarian might share with their charges became the educational norm. Those writers enjoyed a more open reading environment in their classrooms; times being what they were, it was not necessary to speak of “fair dealing.” But it was fair dealing.

It would be only fair to suggest that such openness contributed to the success of members of The Writers’ Union of Canada. That they should now begrudge future generations of writers that same benefit, is truly disappointing.

copyright and religion; a contentious mixture

In Posts on June 14, 2015 at 6:20 am

Discussions of copyright and religion are fraught with risk for the same reason; that it is extremely difficult to find middle ground.

Two weeks ago, an article in the Huffington Post raised what, on the surface, looks like a clear-cut demonstration of violation of intellectual property rights. But, as is often the case with these rights, careful reading brings to light a more complex matter.

The article, published on 6 June 2016, concerns the work of Vancouver photographer, Dina Goldstein. Although the Huffington Post indicates that Goldstein is seeking damages from a foreign newspaper for its use of her work, the article does not identify which body of law is relevant to Goldstein’s claim. Goldstein is entitled to be offended by the criticism levied at her; however, it is open to debate as to whether any laws were broken at all.

Images from Goldstein’s collection Fallen Princesses were used to support an argument from the Irish Catholic newspaper Alive!, of the need for families to raise children with hope. Specifically, the hope that arises from the Christian faith: “The sure hope of heaven gives us a joy here and now that even suffering cannot undermine. The fairy tales have it right.” The Huffington Post quotes Goldstein as saying:

My photograph … was deliberately manipulated into forming a criticism about parents who do not promote religion within the household. This sentiment is seething with the classic Catholic guilt trip I reject … In fact, this argument is completely opposed to my own way of raising a family, without religion.

In the same article, Goldstein acknowledges that her “socially critical work is ‘meant to attract discourse.'” However, the photographer objected “to the newspaper’s cover displaying neither a credit to her, nor an indication there’s a relevant story inside.”

DINA-GOLDSTEIN-IRISH-NEWSPAPERCloser examination of both the Alive! cover and the accompanying article do not easily support these remarks. It is true that the Alive! cover does not make mention of Goldstein by name, but there is a reference to an article in the lower right hand corner: “Being a child of parents with no faith is tough, see page 7.”

On page seven, the article begins with: “Photographer Dina Goldstein … .” The article deals with Goldstein’s work in depth, detailing highlights of the collection and Goldstein’s philosophy about the collection. In terms of crediting a creator, or invoking a creator’s work to a specific cause, these are matters of moral rights which serve to protect the personal connection between art and artist. As most readers know, the scope of protection varies. However, among observing countries, the right of attribution (acknowledging the creator) and integrity (treating the work with respect) are common. Ireland observes both (so too does Canada).

But the immediate question is whether moral rights prescribe a specific placement of attribution? Irish law is silent as to how attribution should be carried out. Known as the paternity right in their Copyright and Related Rights Act, Chapter 7 – Section 107 states: “ … the author shall have the right to be identified as the author and that right shall also apply in relation to an adaptation of the work.” Thus it is plausible that crediting Goldstein through the article would serve as observant of moral rights under Irish law.

[As an aside, the Copyright Act of Canada is slightly more detailed in its language of moral rights: “The author of a work has …  the right to the integrity of the work and, …  where reasonable in the circumstances, to be associated with the work as its author by name or under a pseudonym and the right to remain anonymous.” But the caveat of “where reasonable in the circumstances” also allows for the possibility that the attribution might not be placed according to the creator’s wishes.]

On the matter of the integrity of the work, Irish law is quite intriguing. Chapter 7 – Section 108 states: “… the author of the work shall have the right to object to any distortion, mutilation, or other modification of, or derogatory action in relation to, the work which would prejudice his or her reputation …” (emphasis mine). The two photographs of Goldstein’s, portrayed by Alive!, were not distorted, mutilated or modified. The representation is faithful to Goldstein’s original images. But we should consider the possibility that featuring Goldstein’s work in the newspaper, is a “derogatory action … which would prejudice his or her reputation.”

The Alive! article quotes Goldstein as saying: “I am a fierce realist so I wanted the princesses to be in real life situations with problems of their own.” The article further quotes Goldstein as “raging against the happily-ever-after motif” spoon-fed to the young. Neither quotation is attributed to any particular press interview or article, but Goldstein’s website contains an extensive collection of material so it is plausible that these quotations are accurate. Alive! uses Goldstein’s work and her remarks as a background to advance their own argument; that believing in “happily ever after” is a fundamental belief, and a worthwhile one, in the Christian tradition.

At this stage, a claim based upon moral rights infringement looks less robust; rather than a violation of moral rights, the use of the images melds well with fair dealing. In Ireland, like Canada, criticism and review are protected purposes if the creator receives sufficient acknowledgement (see Chapter 6 – Section 51). It would not be possible to convey the force of Goldstein’s work, without showing some of the work. Where Alive! may have erred, is to speculate that Goldstein’s work is deliberately an attack on Christianity and a style of parenting. From the article:

But is [Goldstein] raging against the Christian message of hope in the fairy stories or against the culture of despair which has infiltrated both society and her own life? She seems to think we should stop telling children stories with happy endings. That kids need to realize that real life stories don’t end that way.

Alive! continues in this vein, about people who have lost sight of God, emphasizing that “hope and happiness, not despair, are the realistic attitude to life.”

Goldstein has not been shy about voicing her views on religion; but she has also articulated that her work is art, not a parenting manual. In 2009, when Fallen Princesses was unveiled, Cheryl Rossi, writing for Vancouver Courier, states:

Her Fallen Princesses photos aren’t meant for kids, Goldstein says, and she’s not shielding her daughter, now four, from Disney. “I don’t want to ruin her bubble,” she said. “She’ll learn that life is complicated and tough eventually.”

In a more recent interview Goldstein states that she would not deprive her young daughters of the enjoyment of Disney productions or merchandise, emphasizing that children are too young to understand the concepts behind Goldstein’s imagery. Goldstein is unequivocal: “These images are made for adults.”

So is there a legitimate complaint here, and if so, what is it? Was the photograph unfairly used in a manner that is derogatory to Goldstein’s reputation? Have the musings of Alive! cast aspersions to Goldstein’s character? Or, was the condemnation of Goldstein’s work merely criticism? Criticism that necessarily required explanation and therefore invocation of Goldstein’s work?

And if there is a complaint, is there an avenue of redress for Goldstein? I am unfamiliar with the sturdiness of Ireland’s regimes of fair dealing, moral rights and defamation; if an Irish reader would like to comment, please do.

On a different note, Goldstein’s work is phenomenal. In an interview with Fanny Kiefer, Goldstein remarks: “… [the] characters are symbols, to convey a scenario.” Fallen Princesses is dramatic and touches a chord by the recasting of familiar characters among the all-too-real feelings of desperation that pervade life. The rude-awakening that marriage can be, the trauma of cancer, and other realities, are conveyed masterfully.

With my bent for maintaining copyright as a set of limited rights (as it has been for 305 years), the best part of Goldstein’s work is this: no reprisals from the Disney Corporation. When questioned by Kiefer as to whether Goldstein had sought permission from Disney, and did Disney call upon publication of the pictures, the answer to both questions was No.

Nor should there have been any reason for Disney involvement. But the persona of Disney and its ironclad grip upon its characters is legendary to the point of discouraging putative artists and even well-heeled lawyers from using Disney materials. Goldstein’s story is a happily-ever-after of an entirely different nature.

Feb 23-27, celebrating fair dealing

In Posts on February 19, 2015 at 9:23 pm

February 23-27 marks Fair Use Week in the United States, and thus by association, Fair Dealing Week for other jurisdictions. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is promoting a community celebration of these limits upon copyright that enable the system of copyright to live up to its mandate to promote creativity, advance knowledge and bolster innovation, and reap just rewards not only for the creators involved but for the creators yet to come as well. ARL pays particular attention to Canada: “… in Canada, fair dealing is a critical right of the user intended to facilitate balance in copyright law and accommodate freedom of expression.”

Readers may remember that user rights gained prominence in Canada in 2004, via CCH Canadian. Writing for the Supreme Court of Canada, in a decision supported with unanimity, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin states:

The fair dealing exception, like other exceptions in the Copyright Act, is a user’s right. In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users’ interests, it must not be interpreted restrictively (para.48).

The Supreme Court has consistently reminded Canadians that copyright is a set of limited rights, and that those limits are critical to the proper functioning of the system as a whole. Yet, even after 11 years of well-articulated, thoughtful reminders, it remains that copyright is often perceived as a measure of absolute control. Such perception is cultivated perhaps unintentionally by people/organizations who have a genuine desire to behave in a law-abiding manner and thus restrict behaviour that need not be restricted. With time, we may hope that such misunderstanding will subside. More potent and damaging is the conduct of members within the publishing community who actively promote misinformation.

For instance, consider the following notice that graces the frontmatter of far too many books:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

If one unpacks this passage, the first sentence is correct. All the rights offered within copyright law have been reserved to the benefit of the copyright holder. At this juncture though, one should remember that extensive as those rights are, copyright holders are not permitted the right to refuse exceptions defined within the same law.  Copyright holders cannot pick the parts of the Copyright Act they wish to accept, and the parts which are to be dispensed with. But the sentence that follows in the passage tries to do exactly that; it categorically denies unauthorized use, despite the fact that fair dealing, fair use, and a host of other exceptions, can allow reproduction and transmission, by whatever means, without the consent of the publisher.


Update – February 28, 2015

Fair Dealing / Fair Use week sparked an outpouring of dialogue about our exceptions for unauthorized use. My favorite was Jonathan Band’s description of the many sightings of fair use in the daily life of a legislative assistant.

And, it was with great pleasure that I contributed the following posts to Harvard Library and the Office for Scholarly Communication, and University of Toronto Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office. My thanks to Kyle Courtney and Daniela Cancilla for the invitations to participate with their respective universities.

North of 49, posted February 24, 2015: “The proximity of the United States to Canada occasionally leads to some confusion north of the 49th parallel; in common parlance, fair use eclipses fair dealing. I cannot resist reminding others: we are Canadian; our exception is fair dealing. Yet it is only appropriate to also say that Canada has benefited greatly by American fair use. From our vantage point, we were able to appreciate the opportunity provided by flexibility in the language of exceptions, suffer the worst of fair use’s growing pains by proxy, and step ahead of such pain in our own development of exceptions.” To read more, see link or pdf.

Fair Dealing: Protector of the Public Domain, posted February 27, 2015“This past week marked Fair Dealing / Fair Use Week 2015. It was pleasing to see many Canadians within the educational community taking interest in our system of copyright. But, I confess to some disappointment that this interest should have blossomed only belatedly – after 2012. True, in that year the Copyright Act was revised with increased scope given to exceptional uses of copyrighted material. Also true, in 2012 the Supreme Court handed down two more decisions emphasizing the merits of fair dealing. But we cannot lose sight of the fact those decisions were based upon our previous Act which did not include any provision for “education.” Nor can we forget our Court began speaking to the importance of fair dealing a full decade earlier, emphasizing that fair dealing is our mode of entry into the public domain.” To read more, see link or pdf.

good news

In Posts on July 12, 2012 at 10:34 am

The Supreme Court of Canada continues to probe the nuance of fair dealing with good judgement.  Michael Geist provides a detailed synopsis of today’s announcements; beginning with these remarks:

Led by Justice Abella, the court has reaffirmed that fair dealing is a user’s right that must be interpreted in a broad and liberal manner. In fact, the court provides further guidance on interpreting fair dealing with an emphasis on the need for a flexible, technology-neutral approach. In reading the decisions in the Access Copyright and song previews cases, it is hard to imagine a bigger victory for education, Internet users, and innovative companies…

Via the Toronto Star, Laura Murray (co-author of Canadian Copyright — A Citizen’s Guide) emphasized that the court’s ruling, “restores a measure of common sense to copyright debate.”

More to follow another day.

Nice News On The Fair Dealing Front

In Posts on May 15, 2010 at 10:24 am

Michael Geist writes that the Federal Court of Appeal has concurred with an earlier Copyright Board decision stating that previewing songs, as allowed by online music sites such as iTunes, are permissible as a form of research under Fair Dealing. This is a relief; it negates the view that research should be confined to structured settings.

But I am worried that it will further entrench the view that Fair Dealing is a consumer right. (And I thought the term user right was bad enough.) I have said elsewhere that fair dealing is a creator’s right. And, if we are dwelling on creativity, it would be appropriate to remember that success through creativity has always been fraught with risk.

My daughter recently did a school project on Nellie McClung. (D. was very put out that no-one had heard of Nellie McClung.) NM’s autobiography was enjoyable from start to finish, but one story stood out. From “Christmas Day,” in Clearing in the West, she writes:

“We had two new pictures now, enlarged photographs of father and mother in heavy oak frames with a gilt edge, done by a traveling artist, who drove a team of mules and carried a few lines of tinware. Every family in the neighborhood had taken advantage of his easy plan to secure a lasting work of art. You paid only for the frame and received the picture entirely for free, though this offer might be withdrawn any minute for he was doing this merely to get his work known. …. When [the pictures] came, we all had a surprise. We had thought that the seven dollars and thirty-five cents paid for both frames but we were wrong. Each one cost that amount and even at that the artist was losing money.”

Early Canada had its share of talented people; on the literary side Nellie McLung, Susanna Moodie, Catherine Parr Trail all come to mind. But financial success was not assured to everyone and it wasn’t for lack of copyright. The small Canadian market, competition from established publishers in London and New York, and an unwillingness on the part of Britain to allow Canada to develop its own publishing sector made for much more hardship than was necessary.

I think it’s safe to say that we would all like to spend our lives doing something we love. Not everyone will be able to. It’s Darwin again.

World Fair Use Day

In Posts on January 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Sponsored by Public Knowledge, today marks an effort to educate people of the importance of the doctrine of Fair Use. (I wish I was in Washington DC for the gathering!)

Like many other Commonwealth jurisdictions, Canada’s copyright system operates with Fair Dealing. Like Fair Use, Fair Dealing permits unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted material for some good-faith productive purposes. As I mentioned a few months ago, fair dealing has more credence in reconciling the mutual needs amongst creators. Yet, curiously so, Fair Dealing continues to be characterized as a user’s right. With the greatest respect to our Supreme Court Justices, and many legal scholars and professional lawyers, I remain unconvinced. Fair dealing is better described as a creator’s right

Fair dealing should be seen as the modest measure that ensures the system purporting to encourage creative effort, and protect the interests of creative individuals, does not thwart creativity itself. This right of access is reconciled with an accompanying duty of reciprocation to the creative community at large. As creators have a duty to recognize past creators’ efforts, and not to abuse their right of access, so creators have a duty to share their work as necessary to foster future creators’ efforts. More succinctly, fair dealing mandates fair duty for all parties concerned.

As you wish Mr. Zukofsky,

In Posts on October 24, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Dear Mr. Zukofsky,

I read with interest your copyright notice** of 17 September 2009, concerning the works of your father. A doctoral student brought it to my attention, asking for more information regarding copyright law. Please be assured that I will do my utmost to discourage students from exploring your father’s work. As you point out, they would do better to find a topic where a lawsuit or invoice does not appear imminent at every turn. Unless students have adequate resources, and a commitment of support from their institution, it would be unconscionable to send them into harm’s way.

However, I am concerned that students may interpret your position as an accurate reading of the law. It is not. For their benefit I would like to clarify some general points.

I must start by saying I am a citizen and resident of Canada. Within our Copyright Act, we have an exception called “Fair Dealing” which is similar to Fair Use, but not the same. So, I will frame my remarks along the general idea of exceptions to copyright, as well as specific Canadian cases.

1) Copyright is not, nor has it ever been, a grant of absolute control. There has always remained a space for some good-faith productive uses of a work, while that same work is still protected through the term of copyright. These uses are facilitated through statutory exceptions to copyright, i.e. Fair Use and Fair Dealing.

2) Fair Use in the United States allows for some uses such as criticism, comment, research, etc. Encoded into the law is the requirement that an assessment of Fair Use take into consideration the following factors: the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the amount copied, and the effect upon the potential market. On some occasions, strong consideration has been given to the last element, the effect upon a potential market. This is troubling; if by virtue of using an extract of a work, it is inferred that a market could have existed, fair use becomes fairly useless.

Professor Giusepina D’Agostino of Osgoode Hall Law School gives a thorough comparison of Canadian Fair Dealing to the corresponding U.S. and U.K. exceptions to copyright, see “Healing Fair Dealing: A Comparative Copyright Analysis of Canadian Fair Dealing to UK Fair Dealing and US Fair use.” McGill Law Journal 53 (2).

3) As mentioned, Canada operates with Fair Dealing, which is narrower than Fair Use. Our list of permissible uses is explicitly confined to: private study, research, criticism, review and news reporting, with some requirements of citation. While Fair Dealing did not do well in Canadian courts through much of the 20th century, a more nuanced interpretation appeared in 1997 in Allen v. Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. And, within a series of notable decisions, in 2004 a unanimous Canadian Supreme Court supported the merits of fair dealing.

In this decision, known as CCH Canadian, the Court stated that determining fair dealing is always a matter of context. And while emphasizing that fair dealing was not permission to copy at will and without restriction, they instructed that “Research should be given a large and liberal interpretation.” Emulating U.S. law, the Court laid out a framework for determining if a dealing is fair, with an important distinction: “The availability of license is not relevant to deciding whether a dealing has been fair.”

4) As I said at the start, copyright is not a realm of absolute control. Whatever the expansion of its depth and breadth, those changes do not enter into law simply via the whim of an individual copyright holder. No-one can assume unto himself the right to enact or affect statutory law. Be it good, bad or indifferent, any change to our copyright law will occur at the behest of the Parliament of Canada.

Mr Zukofsky, I would like to say again, I will not encourage students to include material written by your father in their dissertations. It is regrettable that a body of literature cannot be explored at this time, but I will turn to Franz Kafka’s words concerning his character Josephine, “She’s merely a small episode in the never ending saga of our folk, a bit of history, and we’ll be able to rise above our loss, our folk shall continue on.”

Meera Nair, Ph.D.


**Update — 16 October 2018

The copyright notice I referred to has since changed.  For readers wishing to see the original, see here. Courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

More re: Consultations

In Posts on July 31, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Laura Murray has posted her contribution to the recent Ottawa roundtable concerning revisions of the Copyright Act. (Thank you Laura.) I share her concern that fair dealing’s usefulness will be eradicated if implicated within licensing programs. As it is, the academic community tends to bestow more rights upon copyright owners than the law actually provides.

For various reasons, there is a presumption that use of copyrighted material relies on permission from the copyright holder. Past efforts to protest have been met with indignation, and academic representatives were seen as wanting everything for free. I have written on this issue before, with respect to the consultations of 2004:

…a frequent theme of discussion was that manufacturers of tables, chairs, and software are not asked to give away their work for free, so why should creators be requested to do so? Lost in the argument was the fact that no-one had asked creators to make their work available for free, instead, free work was asked to be made available—that existing free rights of access to copyrighted work should be respected and protected.

[I know, pretty shameless to cite my own paper…]

I hope the efforts of Laura and many others come to fruition, and that fair dealing receives the support of the Federal Government of Canada. But to what extent will the academic community, as a whole, utilize fair dealing? The palpable unwillingness to engage with fair dealing as it is currently available is alternately puzzling and disturbing. Particularly in light of the strong support provided to fair dealing by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In 2004, through what has come to be known as CCH Canadian , fair dealing was unanimously declared as integral to the system of copyright as a whole. This despite the fact that “It is impossible to define fair dealing.” Aware of the challenge this poses, the Supreme Court Justices provided Canadians with a cogent and astute framework to guide use of copyrighted work in a manner consistent with fair dealing. Yet in the years since, only one academic body has promoted CCH Canadian. In December 2008, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) issued an Intellectual Property Advisory, explaining the case, its nuances, the framework, and appropriate use of the framework in academic institutions.

Apart from the broader constituency of Canadians as a whole, the academic community is the largest stakeholder in Canada which benefits by fair dealing. Students, teachers, researchers, and administrators all rely upon this modest measure of unauthorized reproduction. Given that the Supreme Court Justices also noted the “relevance of a custom or practice of a particular trade or industry” upon a decision of fair dealing, fair dealing’s legitimacy within academia rests upon academic engagement.

And, until I write a complete resource page for CCH Canadian, here are some references:
CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13.
Canadian Association of University Teachers. (December 2008) Fair Dealing. Intellectual Property Advisory, No.3.

Copyright Consultations

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2009 at 9:43 am

I have to deviate from my intentions for this blog, with a brief news update.  Once again, Canada is embarking on the road to change for our Copyright Act. Consultations begin today, in Vancouver, and will make their way across the country over the next two months. Althia Raj of the Winnipeg Sun reports that the Federal Government is looking to pass this legislation before 2010. This timetable may be a little ambitious.

Canadians are fortunate that (so far) our Copyright Act has not changed solely as a heated reaction to the phenomenon of file sharing. The last major revision of the Act occurred in 1997. With a combination of luck and reticence, the digital environment was left alone to take shape through both market and non-market activity. The possibilities and pitfalls of new technology coupled with world-wide connectivity have become clearer; time has allowed for a more measured evaluation. Recent comments from Heritage Minister James Moore and Industry Minister Tony Clement at the Digital Economy Conference suggest that the Federal Government will look to the future, and not to the past, as amendments are considered. Thank you to both Ministers.

But, if I may offer up my wish-list, I hope Ministers Moore and Clement will give their unequivocal support for fair dealing. Our Copyright Act is deemed to offer encouragement for creative effort, and, respect for creators. Fair dealing is the only measure within the Act that actually supports creativity.

Getting Started

In Posts on July 8, 2009 at 9:46 pm

As I envision it, this blog could serve as a source of information for those who are new to copyright, or, new to the principle of fair duty. The root of both topics lies in the awareness that copyright is not a grant of absolute control. Copyright provides some rights of control, to a copyright owner, accompanied by a duty to share with all creators. This duty is the measure of Fair Dealing.

Briefly, Fair Dealing permits some good-faith, productive uses of copyrighted material without authorization from the copyright holder. It is not an invitation to copy without restriction. It is a modest measure, but it ensures that the system of copyright which theoretically exists to protect creative people, and creative work, does not stifle creativity itself.

Paraphrasing from the Copyright Act:

3.1 For the purposes of this Act, “copyright”, in relation to a work, means the sole right to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part thereof in any material form whatever…
5.1 … copyright shall subsist in Canada, for the term hereinafter mentioned, in every original literary, dramatic, musical and artistic work
27.1 It is an infringement of copyright for any person to do, without the consent of the owner of the copyright, anything that by this Act only the owner of the copyright has the right to do.

29. Fair dealing for the purpose of research or private study does not infringe copyright.
29.1 Fair dealing for the purpose of criticism or review does not infringe copyright if [attribution is] mentioned.
29.2 Fair dealing for the purpose of news reporting does not infringe copyright if [attribution is] mentioned.

It is inconsistent within the law to affirm copyright in a work, and simultaneously deny the possibility of Fair Dealing in that same work. As to how to make an assessment of fair dealing, that’s for another day. For now, if you are a student, teacher, librarian, artist, musician, photographer, writer, anyone with creative talent, just keep doing what you’re doing.