Lawsuits and loggerheads: Recent developments in Canadian copyright

The past few months have been incredibly interesting for Canadian copyright –especially for the intellectual property nerds/enthusiasts among us.

In June 2019, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology (INDU) released its report for the statutory review of the Copyright Act. The review allowed INDU to reflect on the impact of changes introduced by the Copyright Modernization Act in 2012 –which, significantly for us at Langara, included the addition of education as a fair dealing purpose.

In preparing its report, INDU heard from over 200 witnesses and reviewed 192 briefs from citizens and stakeholders (Langara among them). Based on these oral and written testimonies, INDU formulated 36 recommendations, three of which directly address educational fair dealing (see Recommendations 16-18).

INDU’s thorough, inclusive, and balanced take came as a relief to the educational sector. As part of the review process, INDU invited the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage (Heritage) to conduct a study on remuneration models for artists and creative industries. Rather than provide a summary of its findings, Heritage released its own report entitled Shifting Paradigms in advance of INDU.

Copyright law strives for balance between user and creator rights but, according to legal expert Michael Geist, Heritage “utterly failed to comply with the request to call on a broad range of stakeholders,” resulting in what he calls “the most one-sided Canadian copyright report issued in the past 15 years.” Yikes. All this considered, it’s unsurprising that Heritage’s actions elicited a snarky public response from INDU.

So what comes next? Both reports have been presented to the Canadian Government for consideration. In theory, the recommendations put forth by INDU and Heritage could translate to concrete legislative changes. However, whether there is taste for copyright reform in lead up to a federal election remains uncertain.

Higher education is also anxiously awaiting a decision in York University’s ongoing legal battle with Access Copyright, the copyright collective that arranges licenses and collects royalties on behalf of Canadian authors and publishers. On July 12, 2017, the Federal Court sided with Access on the two primary questions in the case: (1) whether Access Copyright’s license is mandatory for post-secondary institutions, and (2) whether York’s fair dealing guidelines (which are akin to those adopted by Langara and many other Canadian colleges and universities) are indeed fair to creators and copyright owners. York’s appeal was heard on March 5 and 6, 2019 and legal experts expect a decision anytime between now and early 2020.

Who needs reality television when you have Canadian copyright? 😉 The Copyright Office will continue to share developments with the Langara community as they transpire. In the meantime, we welcome your questions. Visit Langara’s new copyright website or contact us at

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