Eight years and four months after Access Copyright brought legal action against York University in the Federal Court, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) published their unanimous decision on the applicability of copyright tariffs. They also — although this does not count as precedent — commented yet again on the correct interpretation of the fair dealing factors in an educational context. My set of blog posts discussing the various filings and decisions can be found here.Continue reading
The Supreme Court decision in the Access Copyright / York case has been released. It can be found at Lexum.
As I had suspected, the Court dismissed the appeals of both parties and upheld the verdicts of the Federal Court of Appeal – namely, that the tariff proposed by Access Copyright and set by the Copyright Board is not automatically binding on all institutional users of copyrighted material, and thus, since the tariff is not binding, there is no need at this time to make a declaration that York’s Fair Dealing Guidelines are representative of fair dealing.
However, while the guidelines issue is moot, the Supreme Court took issue with how the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal described and interpreted fair dealing in the institutional context. While the Court’s statements on this is issue are “obiter dicta”, they are nonetheless important.
“While I therefore agree that the requested Declaration should not be granted, this should not be construed as endorsing the reasoning of the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal on the fair dealing issue. There are some significant jurisprudential problems with those aspects of their judgments that warrant comment.” (para. 87)
I will discuss the Supreme Court’s decision in more detail in my next post.
The Supreme Court of Canada are publishing their decision on the Access Copyright v. York University copyright case on Friday, July 29. I’ve been following this case and writing about it on my blog since the action was filed eight (!) years ago: see https://fairdealingineducation.com/tag/york-university/
Considering the decision is coming only two months and some days after the hearing, I expect the SCC will uphold the verdicts of the Federal Court of Appeals that the tariff is not mandatory, and that York’s Fair Dealing policy does not accurately reflect the interpretation of fair dealing that the SCC has previously put forth. Maybe they will add a bit of commentary of their own, I don’t know. But I don’t think we’re going to be falling out of our chairs.
Michael Geist’s analysis of the FCA’s decision is here.
In summary, the FCA ruled that the interim tariff requested by Access Copyright, and granted by the Copyright Board, is not mandatory; and that copies made under York’s fair dealing guidelines (“Guidelines”) are not necessarily fair dealing. (para. 4) Continue reading
The Federal Court of Appeals has released its decision in the appeal of the Access Copyright v. York case. Howard Knopf has helpfully provided links to the order and reasons in his blog Excess Copyright.
Long story short: The interim tariff is not mandatory, but York’s fair dealing guidelines cannot be declared as representative of fair dealing.
A more in-depth discussion of the decision will be posted on this blog sometime during the week.
Here is Michael Geist’s post on the decision.
Author’s note: The Access Copyright v. York University lawsuit was the subject of the very first post I ever made. In fact, it was the impetus for creating this blog. After four years, part one of the lawsuit has been decided. Here is my analysis.
On July 12, 2017, the Federal Court of Canada handed down its long-awaited decision in Access Copyright’s lawsuit against York University (York), originally filed on April 13, 2013. The suit related to York’s copyright policy and whether their fair dealing guidelines accurately reflected the test set out by the Supreme Court. A summary of Access Copyright’s claims can be found here.
The result was a complete loss for York on all points, and an order to pay retroactive royalties as set by the Copyright Board in its Interim Tariff. However, as the decision is likely to be appealed, I’d like to discuss here what will we be (or should be) the main points of legal contention before the higher court. I will focus here on the fair dealing analysis (starting at para. 249) rather than the mandatory tariff, which is an issue discussed in detail by Howard Knopf and Ariel Katz.
Access Copyright is now offering two licensing options for universities to consider: the Access Premium, which takes the same form as the pre-2015 blanket licences including course packs and digital copying, and transactional licences for over-limit copying; and the Access Choice, which starts at a lower flat rate and adds on transactional licences for course packs and digital copyright. (Still no stand-alone pay-per-use option, however.)
The flat fee for each of the options is reduced if the licence term is longer. For Premium, a one-year commitment requires a fee of $18 per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student, which then drops to $15/year for a three-year agreement, and $12/year for a five-year agreement. The Choice option starts at $6/FTE for a one-year agreement, then drops to $5/year for a three-year agreement. (The previous agreement was $26/year.)
The addition of transactional licences to the scheme might be attractive to some university administrators who perceive it to offer some security. However, it doesn’t seem to be attractive enough. December 31, 2015, marked the end of the latest round of Access Copyright licences. I have been keeping track of whether the signatory universities were planning to continue with a further Access Copyright agreement. The results so far show that universities are continuing to move away from the blanket licence model, even with the lower price and option of transactional licences; more and more universities are opting to rely on fair dealing and other user rights, publisher and database licences, open access alternatives, and public domain material.
As of today, according to publicly-accessible sources, 37 out of 65 universities (57%) are not a party to a licensing agreement with the collective (compared to 24/65 [37%] last year, and 100% in 2010). For 27 universities, their status is unclear, but evidence suggests that two of them have decided not to renew. The University of Regina decided to opt into an Access Premium agreement.
Copyright expert Lesley Ellen Harris recently posted at IP Osgoode about an important but seldom-addressed issue involving post-secondary institutions and copyright: When a librarian answers a question about using copyrighted works, is she giving legal advice? Given that more universities are opting to handle copyright compliance in-house rather than outsourcing it to a copyright collective, the answer becomes more and more significant. The answer will not be found in my post; instead, I’ll relate some of the thoughts I had after reading Harris’s post.
[Note: The thoughts below are based on the IP Osgoode post; some of them might already be addressed in Harris’s full article upcoming in the Intellectual Property Journal.]
Today, on the last day of Fair Use Week, Prof. Samuel Trosow and I got to speak with members of the University of Western Ontario law and library communities about potential conflicts between the law of copyright and the law of contract, where the terms of a subscription licence seemingly abrogate the user’s right of fair dealing. Some of the audience wondered whether, in a situation where a user “contravenes” the contract by using the materials in a way consistent with a copyright exception, a database provider or publisher would take the subscribing library or institution to court. This has not yet been an issue in Canadian courts, and at this point it would be difficult to predict.
Teresa Scassa has written a blog post about copyright and municipal transit data (bus route maps and real-time GPS data) in which she makes a very important observation: “Being in a position to make a claim to IP rights was in many ways more important than actually having a good claim.” The same can be said about contractual entitlements (or at least the appearance of entitlements). As long as the risk of a breach of contract suit exists, this could be enough to ensure compliance with the licence, despite that there might be no such obligation in law, and despite that there may be a loss to the library community and its patrons in the short and long term. On the other hand, if a licensor did bring such a suit and lost, the precedent set could be more damaging to the industry than simply ignoring it. I wonder who is going to blink first?
February 23-27 is Fair Use Week, a “community celebration of fair use coordinated by the Association of Research Libraries.”
Here in Canada, we’re celebrating the equivalent (but not exactly the same, of course) Fair Dealing Week. The Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office at the University of Toronto are initiating a nation-wide discussion on fair dealing in Canada, via the Twitter handle @UofTSCCO and the hashtag #FairUseWeek2015.
Copyright and contracts: The fight over information
Fair dealing is a exception to copyright infringement that is granted by the Copyright Act. In 2004, the Supreme Court characterized fair dealing as not only an exception, but as a user’s right that should be interpreted broadly. In 2012, it reiterated that position. That same year, Parliament extended the scope of this user’s right by adding “education, parody and satire” to the list of fair dealing purposes in the Copyright Act. However, copyright owners and database publishers can attempt to limit the reach of fair dealing in contracts granting subscriptions to electronic information. Are these contract terms valid? Professor Samuel Trosow and Lisa Di Valentino will discuss the intersection between copyright law and contract law that has become a significant issue in a world of digital access to knowledge.
Friday, February 27, 2015
12:00pm – 1:20 pm
North Campus Building, Room 293