Access Copyright v. York University

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, the lawsuit has been decided (at least in part). 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.

[Michael Geist’s analysis of the York decision can be found here.] Continue reading

Access Copyright v. York suit split into two

Howard Knopf has reported that the Access Copyright v. York University suit has been bifurcated by the Federal Court — that is, split into two phases that will be heard separately. He has posted Aalto CMJ’s bifurcation order here. The order was requested by York.

In the first phase, documentary and oral discovery (the gathering of evidence) will take place with respect to York’s use (or authorization of use) of the copyrighted works enumerated in Schedule “B” of Access Copyright’s Statement of Claim, as well as York’s counterclaim seeking a declaration that the proposed tariff is voluntary and that uses of copyrighted works that fall within the scope of their Fair Dealing Guidelines are fair dealing.

In the second phase, if necessary, the Court will consider Access Copyright’s claims related to other acts of reproduction that York may have engaged in or authorized, and which are not set out in Schedule “B” but may be discovered during the course of the proceedings.

Access Copyright argued against the bifurcation, on the grounds that it will cause prejudice to their attempts to show that York’s Fair Dealing Guidelines do not reflect the legal scope of fair dealing, and that York has engaged in or authorized copying that falls outside of the ambit of the guidelines. They contend that the initial focusing on the 87 enumerated works will interfere with their ability to discover copying that has taken place beyond what has already been alleged.

Aalto CMJ’s bifurcation order attempts a compromise between York’s view that there are far too many instances of fair copying to be considered in one proceeding, and AC’s view that its ability to discover further copying is compromised. To that end, York will be required to produce the volume and types of copying that it tracks, and provide samples of the copying.

Review of Canadian University Fair Dealing Policies

Update: I have made some revisions to the paper, adding Grant MacEwan University to the sample, correcting Queen’s University’s Access Copyright relationship, and removing typographical errors. Much thanks to Scott Day and Mark Swartz for bringing these oversights to my attention. (May 17, 2013)

I have recently made available the results of a project I have been working on since January. I analyzed the fair dealing policies of the top 40 Canadian universities by student enrollment (excluding Quebec) for content and to determine whether there is consistency among the universities, and any relationship between the content in the schools’ copyright web sites and whether they have signed an Access Copyright licence.

The paper is available at the following link: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2263034

This research is particularly timely because of the recent lawsuit brought by Access Copyright against York University, the basis of which is York’s allegedly ineffective fair dealing policy.

Abstract:

The past three years have seen a number of changes in the area of copyright law, particularly in the area of education. As a result, Canadian universities have had to make policy decisions to account for these changes and the resulting expansion of fair dealing rights. The content and consistency of the resulting policies may have a significant effect on the future interpretation of fair dealing rights. In this paper I analyze the current state of fair dealing policies and supporting information found on university web sites. I conclude that an ideal fair dealing policy is open ended and flexible, and incorporates mention of the significant elements of copyright legislation, court decisions, and other areas of law, in a way that is accessible to its intended audience of faculty and instructors.

Access Copyright v. York University: The statement of claim.

A copy of Access Copyright’s Statement of Claim against York University can be found here. It was filed in Federal Court on April 8, 2013 (see Court Docket). It is important to note that Access Copyright is not suing York merely because York is operating outside the Interim Tariff and outside of any licence with the collective. Rather, the allegation is that York educators reproduced copyrighted works that are within Access Copyright’s repertoire, and that this reproduction is not fair dealing. This reproduction causes York to be subject to the Interim Tariff, and obliges them to pay all royalties associated with the tariff. Continue reading