In a good year, the Supreme Court of Canada might take one copyright case, so it was quite the occasion when on July 12 it handed down judgments in five, all of which concerned tariffs, or royalties, proposed to Canada’s Copyright Board. Canadian courts strive to balance copyright owners’ and users’ rights, and here the court emphasized this goal, largely coming down in favor of expanding user rights in this collection of cases that considered new technologies, the Internet and content.
“Miraculously, all five of these [cases] were granted an audience by the Supreme Court,” says Sheldon Burshtein, a partner in the Toronto office of Blake, Cassels & Graydon. “When the court takes one copyright case, it’s a big deal. When it takes five, it’s a huge deal. And to release all five in a package is an even bigger deal.”
The court did just that in another of the July 12 cases, Alberta v. Access Copyright, which applied the fair-dealing test to photocopies of textbooks and other copyrighted works that teachers distribute to their classrooms for instruction. The 5-4 majority of the court said there was “no dispute” that classroom use falls under the allowable category of private study.