Book cover of a Canadian Copyright: A Citizen's Guide


Canadian Copyright: A Citizen's Guide

CAUT Bulletin  

Laura Murray is an Associate Professor in the English Department of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and creator of the website


Samuel Trosow is an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. He is jointly appointed in the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

Recent Decisions

SOCAN seeks review in music preview case PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 13 August 2010

As ably predicted by Howard Knopf yesterday, SOCAN has filed an application for leave to appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada from the decision of the Federal Court (SOCAN v Bell Canada, 2010 FCA 123) in its tariff dispute with online music service providers.


Earlier this year, the FCA upheld a decision of the Copyright Board holding that the provision of 30 second previews of songs which could be purchased by online customers constituted research within the meaning of section 29 and that the dealing was fair.

In its 2007 decision on Tariff 22.A, the Board approved a tariff for the sale and transmission of full-length musical works, but denied a request for the transmission of previews. No tariff is certifiable for acts that are under fair dealing. SOCAN is represented by same firm that represented the Law Society in the landmark CCH v LSUC case decided in 2004. Their application for leave to appeal is argues that the decisions have “created a very significant and unwarranted expansion in the scope of the defence,” and they seek to distinguish the facts of music previews from the situation in CCH.


It is important to note that SOCAN is relying on the recent decision of the FCA on the Access Copyright K-12 Tariff (Province of Alberta, et. al., v Access Copyright, 2010 FCA 198) where they making photocopies of textbooks for use in a classroom for educational purposes was not fair dealing.


An initial review of the application shows that SOCAN is misconstruing the meaning of the CCH decision in two important respects. First, they try to distinguish CCH because in the current music preview case there is an available licensing scheme. They argue:


In CCH, the fair dealing defence was necessary to ensure that the dissemination of important works was not unduly restricted. Here, the compulsory licensing scheme created by the Act achieves that same purpose. (Application, para. 56)


Second, in citing two US decisions that reached the contrary conclusion on previews, SOCAN seems to be making the argument that the FCA erred in not following these decisions as binding:


The Court of Appeal here has taken an approach to American jurisprudence that diverges from that taken by this Court in Instead of drawing on the American law of fair use to inform the Canadian law of fair dealing, the Court of Appeal has arrived at a result that is directly opposite to the result arrived at by the United States District Court in a case with virtually identical facts. (Application, para. 69)


Again, SOCAN misconstrues the meaning of CCH. Notwithstanding the similarly between the six factor analysis it adopted and the four factor statutory fair use analysis, CCH does not stand for the proposition that US case law is necessarily binding. It might be, but SOCAN is overstating the necessity of doing so.


These two flaws are closely related. The underlying meaning of CCH is that fair dealing is not simply a cure for market failure that may be tossed aside if a licensing scheme is becomes available. Quite the contrary. Not only did the CCH court frame its analysis in terms of users rights which are to be considered an integral part of the act, they specifically considered and rejected the argument that the availability of a license can be used to defeat a fair dealing claim.


The availability of a licence is not relevant to deciding whether a dealing has been fair.  As discussed, fair dealing is an integral part of the scheme of copyright law in Canada.  Any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not infringe copyright.  If a copyright owner were allowed to license people to use its work and then point to a person’s decision not to obtain a licence as proof that his or her dealings were not fair, this would extend the scope of the owner’s monopoly over the use of his or her work in a manner that would not be consistent with the Copyright Act’s balance between owner’s rights and user’s interests” (CCH, paragraph 70).


Pointing to the recent FCA decision on the Access Copyright K-12 Tariff, Knopf argues that there is now a “significant inconsistency here between these two decisions within less than three months of each other of different panels of the FCA. ” He adds that “when different panels of the FCA come to apparently inconsistent conclusions within a few weeks of each other on an important issue arising from two cases from the Copyright Board, the situation may become much more interesting and even compelling to the SCC.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether CMEC or any of the school boards will be seeking leave to appeal on the K-12 Tariff decision.



UGC Report

I am an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario jointly appointed to the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS).


Before coming to Western, I was a law librarian at the Boalt Hall Law Library at the University of California at Berkeley and before that I was in private law practice in California. My doctoral work in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA focused on information policy issues.


I am currently a Network Investigator and Theme Leader with the GRAND NCE and also serve on the Librarians Committee of the  Canadian Association of University Teachers.

Scholarship @ Western

Western's Open Access Portal


Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda




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