Canada’s Copyright Board Finds Most Educational Copying is Fair Dealing

*This week is Fair Use Week, an annual celebration of the important doctrines of fair use and fair dealing. It is designed to highlight and promote the opportunities presented by fair use and fair dealing, celebrate successful stories, and explain these doctrines.  

Today’s post is by guest blogger, Wanda Noel, a Canadian lawyer with a practice focused exclusively on copyright. Noel was legal counsel in three recent Supreme Court of Canada and Canadian Copyright Board decisions interpreting the fair dealing provision in the Canadian Copyright Act, including acting as counsel to the objectors in this matter.* 

On February 19, 2016, the Canadian Copyright Board issued a decision setting the Access Copyright Elementary and Secondary School Tariff, 2010-15. With its decision, the Copyright Board set a tariff rate of $2.46 for 2010-2012 and $2.41 for 2013-2015 per full time equivalent student per year to copy print materials such as books, magazines and newspapers.

The announced tariff rate is substantially lower than the per-student rates requested by Access Copyright, a copyright collective representing educational publishers and authors. Access Copyright initially requested rates of $15.00 for the years 2010-12 and $9.50 for the years 2013-15. These rates were a significant increase over the prior rate of $4.81 set by the Copyright Board in 2009. The Copyright Consortium of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), representing the ministers of education in every Canadian province and territory, except Quebec, and the school boards of Ontario objected to the proposed Access Copyright rates and requested much lower rates.

This Copyright Board decision is the first application of fair dealing in educational institutions since two significant events in 2012 altered the copyright landscape in Canada. First, the Copyright Act was amended to add “education” as a new purpose in the fair dealing provision. Second, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a landmark decision interpreting fair dealing to permit teachers to copy and use short excerpts from published works for students in their classes.

The Board attributed the decrease from the prior rate of $4.81 to the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Alberta v. Access Copyright, [2012 SCC 37.] That decision established that copying short excerpts of copyright-protected works for student instruction, assignments or class work did not require royalty payments because the copying was fair dealing. This conclusion resulted in the Board’s finding that a significant proportion of copying by elementary and secondary schools was fair under the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act. Based on data available from a large-scale copying study in Canadian schools, the Board found that 97.2% of copying from books, 98.1% of newspapers and 98.5% from periodicals was fair dealing. This large volume of copying therefore did not require a licence from the owner of the copyright.

The royalty payments of $2.46 and $2.41 set by the Board relate primarily to the copying of consumables. Consumables are works that are intended for one-time use and contain a statement that copying is not permitted. An example is a workbook with questions and answer sheets to be completed by students. The Board found that none of the dealings with consumables were fair. Over three quarters (79% for 2010-2012, and 81% for 2013-2015) of the tariff value is attributable to consumables.

This Copyright Board decision is noteworthy because of the Board’s findings relating to fair dealing. For a dealing to be fair, two tests established by the Supreme Court of Canada in 2004 in CCH v. Law Society of Upper Canada 1 SCR 339 must be met. First, the dealing must be for one of the purposes set out in the Copyright Act. The Board found that the vast majority of copies being considered passed the first test because they were made for one of the following purposes captured by the copying study: research, criticism, review, future reference, private study or student instruction. Only copies made for entertainment and administration did not pass the first test.

The second test is that the dealing must be fair. To determine fairness, the Board applied six fairness factors established by the Supreme Court of Canada in its CCH decision: purpose of the dealing, amount of the dealing, character of the dealing, nature of the work, alternatives to the dealing, and effect of the dealing. These six factors were applied separately to books, newspapers, periodicals and consumables. The Board’s fairness analysis for consumables differed from the other genres particularly on the factors of the nature of the work and alternatives to the dealing.

The Copyright Board also accepted the position of the CMEC Copyright Consortium with respect to several issues besides fair dealing, including the fact that significant amounts of copying are not substantial (and therefore do not trigger any royalty payments under the Copyright Act), the limited nature of Access Copyright’s repertoire, and Access Copyright’s inability to adequately licence the copying of sheet music.

The present Copyright Board’s decision follows another recent tariff decision relating to Access Copyright issued in May of 2015 covering copying by provincial and territorial government employees, where a number of the legal issues were similar. Access Copyright had sought rates as high as $24 per full-time employee, but the highest rate certified was only $0.49. This government tariff decision is currently the subject of a judicial review application in the Federal Court of Appeal brought by Access Copyright.

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