Say goodbye to copyright in Canada, eh?

Last week's set of Canadian Supreme Court decisions gutting the copyright laws make me wonder whether there is any serious jurisprudence in Canada.
Written by Steven Shaw, Contributor


In Canada, what we in the US call "fair use" is called "fair dealing." In short, fair use or dealing refers to how much of something you're allowed to copy, for what purposes, before you've infringed on someone's copyright. So, for example, if I'm writing a ZDNet piece about something I saw on the CBC's website then it's okay for me to copy a quote:

And in a case that has implications for how schools and teachers can use photocopied textbook material, the top court rejected an earlier ruling from the Copyright Board that said a royalty had to be paid because the use of material wasn't covered by the "fair dealing" provision in copyright legislation.

What happened was, last week in a series of five decisions, the Supreme Court of Canada radically expanded notions of fair dealing/use. The full impact won't be felt for months or years, but it's no longer clear to creators of content just how much of their content people can copy for free.

I'm not one to take gratuitous South Park-esque potshots at Canada. I like Canadians. Some of my best friends are Canadians. But this set of Supreme Court decisions really makes me wonder whether there is any serious jurisprudence happening in Canada. The decisions are an intellectual mess and read like they were designed by the average online hater of intellectual property rights.

Actually, I take it back, there is some serious jurisprudence in Canada: the dissenting opinions. The key case was decided 5-4 and others were 6-3 or variants. Those minorities are on the right side of history.


Editorial standards