Earlier this morning, the Supreme Court of Canada issued rulings on five important copyright issues. The effects of these ruling will likely impact Canadians across the country, but few will realize how. The short reason for lack of individual notice: the rulings legitimize some of the things we do anyways, or only affect things that occur in the background of our everyday lives.
By far the most important ruling allows school boards, universities, colleges, and teachers to photocopy small portions of books & textbooks and distribute them amongst their students. The ruling reinforces copyright’s “fair dealing” clause, incorporating education as an element of “research”. Schools already pay a fortune in licensing costs to be allowed to photocopy materials, many of which are technically in “public domain” (outside of copyright). The ruling will save educational institutions a fortune in developing these photocopies for use in classrooms, thereby improving the education of students across the country(1). There is no word on whether this ruling will also apply to digital copies of the relevant texts, which will continue to slow the migration toward technologically sound educational institutions.
A second ruling clarified tariffs paid by Internet Service Providers for online music. No longer will ISPs pay tariffs on music downloaded from the Internet, which may slow the steady rise in consumer costs for Internet Access. Unfortunately, a tariff must still be paid to SOCAN (The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada) and by ISPs for music streamed from the web(2). This effectively allows SOCAN to double-bill for streamed music as any Canadian online radio must already pay steep tariffs to SOCAN.
The remaining three rulings struck down tariffs for music in Video Games, the playing of a film’s soundtrack in movie theatres, and the 30-second previews of music found on services such as iTunes. All three of these services, used extensively by consumers across the country, will continue to exist and function as intended. The rulings legitimizes their usage, and appropriately wags a finger at SOCAN’s use of excessive tariffs(3).
The Supreme Court’s rulings are among a handful of victories for consumers in the copyright sphere in recent weeks. When added to the successful dismantly of ACTA, the user’s rights appear to be triumphing over those of large companies. There’s always another attack on user’s rights in relation to copyright around the corner. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA) are being negotiated with vast changes to copyright law & enforcement on the agenda. Despite these future attacks, we can at least take a moment to thank our Supreme Court before moving on to the next battle.
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