Copyrights

Overview

The expression of an idea, such as a visual art or musical piece can be protected by copyrights.

Our services relating to such protection include:

  • availability and registrability searches,
  • drafting, filing and prosecuting of applications in Canada and abroad,
  • status verification, and
  • infringement and validity opinions,

In addition to IP advice and our services in litigation and arbitration and contracts, titles and due diligence reviews related to copyrights.

  1. SOCAN Decision: Online music distributors must only pay a single royalty fee

    In Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada v. Entertainment Software Association1 (the “SOCAN Decision”), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the obligation to pay a royalty for making a work available to the public on a server, where it can later be streamed or downloaded. At the same time, it clarified the applicable standard of review for appeals where administrative bodies and courts share concurrent first instance jurisdiction and revisited the purpose of the Copyright Act2and its interpretation in light of the WIPO Copyright Treaty3. The Supreme Court also took the opportunity to reiterate the importance of the principle of technological neutrality in the application and interpretation of the Copyright Act. This reminder can also be applied to other artistic mediums and is very timely in a context where the digital visual arts market is experiencing a significant boom with the production and sale of non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”). In 2012, Canadian legislators amended the Copyright Act by adopting the Copyright Modernization Act4. These amendments incorporate Canada’s obligations under the Treaty into Canadian law by harmonizing the legal framework of Canada’s copyright laws with international rules on new and emerging technologies. The CMA introduced three sections related to “making [a work] available,” including section 2.4(1.1) of the CMA. This section applies to original works and clarifies section 3(1)(f), which gives authors the exclusive right to “communicate a work  to the public by telecommunication”: 2.4(1.1) Copyright Act. “For the purposes of this Act, communication of a work or other subject-matter to the public by telecommunication includes making it available to the public by telecommunication in a way that allows a member of the public to have access to it from a place and at a time individually chosen by that member of the public.” Before the CMA came into force, the Supreme Court also found that downloading a musical work from the Internet was not a communication by telecommunication within the meaning of section 3(1)(f) of the CMA5, while streaming was covered by this section.6 Following the coming into force of the CMA, the Copyright Board of Canada (the “Board”) received submissions regarding the application of section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act. The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (“SOCAN”) argued, among other things, that section 2.42.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act required users to pay royalties when a work was published on the Internet, making no distinction between downloading, streaming and cases where works are published but never transmitted. The consequence of SOCAN’s position was that a royalty had to be paid each time a work was made available to the public, whether it was downloaded or streamed. For each download, a reproduction royalty also had to be paid, while for each stream, an additional performance royalty had to be paid. Judicial history The Board’s Decision7 The Board accepted SOCAN’s interpretation that making a work available to the public is a “communication”. According to this interpretation, two royalties are due when a work is published online. Firstly,  when the work is made available to the public online, and secondly, when it is streamed or downloaded. The Board’s Decision was largely based on its interpretation of Section 8 of the Treaty, according to which the act of making a work available requires separate protection by Member States and constitutes a separately compensable activity. Federal Court of Appeal’s Decision8 Entertainment Software Association, Apple Inc. and their Canadian subsidiaries (the “Broadcasters”) appealed the Board’s Decision before the Federal Court of Appeal (“FCA”). Relying on the reasonableness standard, the FCA overturned the Board’s Decision, affirming that a royalty is due only when the work is made available to the public on a server, not when a work is later streamed. The FCA also highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the applicable review standard in appeals following Vavilov9 in cases where administrative bodies and courts share concurrent first instance jurisdiction. SOCAN Decision The Supreme Court dismissed SOCAN’s appeal seeking the reinstatement of the Board’s Decision. Appellate standards of review The Supreme Court recognized that there are rare and exceptional circumstances that create a sixth category of issues to which the standard of correctness applies, namely concurrent first instance jurisdiction between courts and administrative bodies. Does section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act entitle the holder of a copyright to the payment of a second royalty for each download or stream after the publication of a work on a server, making it publicly accessible? The copyright interests provided by section 3(1) of the Copyright Act The Supreme Court began its analysis by considering the three copyright interests protected by the Copyright Act, or in other words, namely the rights provided for in section 3(1): to produce or reproduce a work in any material form whatsoever; to perform the work in public; to publish an unpublished work. These three copyright interestsare distinct and a single activity can only engaged one of them. For example, the performance of a work is considered impermanent, allowing the author to retain greater control over their work than reproduction. Thus, “when an activity allows a user to experience a work for a limited period of time, the author’s performance right is engaged. A reproduction, by contrast, gives a user a durable copy of a work”.10 The Supreme Court also emphasized that an activity not involving one of the three copyright interests under section 3(1) of the Copyright Act or the author’s moral rights is not protected by the Copyright Act. Accordingly, no royalties should be paid in connection with such an activity. The Court reiterated its previous view that downloading a work and streaming a work are distinct protected activities, more precisely  downloading is considered reproduction, while streaming is considered performance. It also pointed out that downloading is not a communication under section 3(1)(f) of the Copyright Act, and that making a work available on a server is not a compensable activity distinct from the three copyright interests.11 Purpose of the Copyright Act and the principle of technological neutrality The Supreme Court criticized the Board’s Decision, opining that it violates the principle of technological neutrality, in particular by requiring users to pay additional fees to access online works. The purpose of the CMA was to “ensure that [the Copyright Act] remains technologically neutral”12 and thereby show, at the same time, Canada’s adherence to the principle of technological neutrality. The principle of technological neutrality is further explained by the Supreme Court: [63] The principle of technological neutrality holds that, absent parliamentary intent to the contrary, the Copyright Act should not be interpreted in a way that either favours or discriminates against any form of technology: CBC, at para. 66. Distributing functionally equivalent works through old or new technology should engage the same copyright interests: Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada v. Bell Canada, 2012 SCC 36, [2012] 2 S.C.R. 326, at para. 43; CBC, at para. 72. For example, purchasing an album online should engage the same copyright interests, and attract the same quantum of royalties, as purchasing an album in a bricks-and-mortar store since these methods of purchasing the copyrighted works are functionally equivalent. What matters is what the user receives, not how the user receives it: ESA, at paras. 5-6 and 9; Rogers, at para. 29. In its summary to the CMA, which precedes the preamble, Parliament signalled its support for technological neutrality, by stating that the amendments were intended to “ensure that [the Copyright Act] remains technologically neutral”. According to the Supreme Court, the principle of technological neutrality must be observed in the light of the purpose of the Copyright Act, which does not exist solely for the protection of authors’ rights. Rather, the Act seeks to strike a balance between the rights of users and the rights of authors by facilitating the dissemination of artistic and intellectual works aiming to enrich society and inspire other creators. As a result, “[w]hat matters is what the user receives, not how the user receives it.”13 Thus, whether the reproduction or dissemination of the work takes place online or offline, the same copyright applies and leads to the same royalties. What is the correct interpretation of section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act? Section 8 of the Treaty The Supreme Court reiterated that international treaties are relevant at the context stage of the statutory interpretation exercise and they can be considered without textual ambiguity in the statute.14 Moreover, wherethe text permits, it must be interpreted so as to comply with Canada’s treaty obligations, in accordance with the presumption of conformity, which states that a treaty cannot override clear legislative intent.15 The Court concluded that section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act was intended to implement Canada’s obligations under Section 8 of the Treaty, and that the Treaty must therefore be taken into account in interpreting section 2.4(1.1) of the Act. Although Section 8 of the Treaty gives authors the right to control making works available to the public, it does not create a new and protected “making available” right that would be separately compensable. In such cases, there are no “distinct communications” or in other words, “distinct performances”.16 Section 8 of the Treaty creates only two obligations: “protect on demand transmissions; and give authors the right to control when and how their work is made available for downloading or streaming.”17 Canada has the freedom to choose how these two objectives are implemented in the Copyright Act, either through the right of distribution, the right of communication to the public, the combination of these rights, or a new right.18 The Supreme Court concluded that the Copyright Act gives effect to the obligations arising from Section 8 of the Treaty through a combination of the performance, reproduction, and authorization rights provided for in section 3(1) of the Copyright Act, and by respecting the principle of technological neutrality.19 Which interpretation of section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act should be followed? The purpose of section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act is to clarify the communication right in section 3(1)(f) of the Copyright Act by emphasizing its application to on-demand streaming. A single on-demand stream to a member of the public thus constitutes a “communication to the public” within the meaning of section 3(1)(f) of the Copyright Act.20 Section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act states that a work is performed as soon as it is made available for on-demand streaming.21 Therefore, streaming is only a continuation of the performance of the work, which starts when the work is made available. Only one royalty should be collected in connection with this right: [100] This interpretation does not require treating the act of making the work available as a separate performance from the work’s subsequent transmission as a stream. The work is performed as soon as it is made available for on-demand streaming. At this point, a royalty is payable. If a user later experiences this performance by streaming the work, they are experiencing an already ongoing performance, not starting a new one. No separate royalty is payable at that point. The “act of ‘communication to the public’ in the form of ‘making available’ is completed by merely making a work available for on?demand transmission. If then the work is actually transmitted in that way, it does not mean that two acts are carried out: ‘making available’ and ‘communication to the public’. The entire act thus carried out will be regarded as communication to the public”: Ficsor, at p. 508. In other words, the making available of a stream and a stream by a user are both protected as a single performance — a single communication to the public. In summary, the Supreme Court stated and clarified the following in the SOCAN Decision: Section 3(1)(f) of the Copyright Act does not cover download of a work. Making a work available on a server and streaming the work both involve the same copyright interest to the performance of the work. As a result, only one royalty must be paid when a work is uploaded to a server and streamed. This interpretation of section 2.4(1.1) of the Copyright Act is consistent with Canada’s international obligations for copyright protection. In cases of concurrent first instance jurisdiction between courts and administrative bodies, the standard of correctness should be applied. As artificial intelligence works of art increase in amount and as a new market for digital visual art emerges, driven by the public’s attraction for the NFT exchanges, the principle of technological neutrality is becoming crucial for understanding the copyrights attached to these new digital objects and their related transactions. Fortunately, the issues surrounding digital music and its sharing and streaming have paved the way for rethinking copyright in a digital context. It should also be noted that in decentralized and unregulated digital NFT markets, intellectual property rights currently provide the only framework that is really respected by some market platforms and may call for some degree of intervention on the part of the market platforms’ owners. 2022 SCC 30. R.S.C. (1985), c. C-42 (hereinafter the “Copyright Act”). Can. T.S. 2014 No. 20, (hereinafter the “Treaty”). S.C. 2012, c. 20 (hereinafter the “CMA”). Entertainment Software Association v. Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, 2012 SCC 34. Rogers Communications Inc. v. Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada, 2012 SCC 35. Copyright Board of Canada, 2017 CanLII 152886 (hereinafter the “Board’s Decision”). Federal Court of Appeal, 2020 FCA 100 (hereinafter the “FCA’s Decision”). Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65. SOCAN Decision, par. 56. Ibid, para. 59. CMA, Preamble. SOCAN Decision, para. 70, emphasis added by the SCC. Ibid, paras. 44-45. Ibid, paras. 46-48. Ibid, paras. 74-75. Ibid, para. 88. Ibid, para. 90. Ibid, paras. 101 and 108. Ibid, paras. 91-94. Ibid, paras. 95 and 99-100.

    Read more
  2. The duration of copyright protection in Canada is extended to 70 years as of December 30, 2022

    On June 23, 2022, Bill C-19 received Royal Assent. The bill was introduced by the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, and resulted in amendments to the Copyright Act1 that will come into force on December 30, 2022, further to an order in council issued earlier this week. Bill C-19, or An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 7, 2022, and other measures, was tabled on April 28, 2022, by the federal government following the release of the 2022 budget. This bill essentially follows up on the commitments the government made in its annual budget. In the 2022 budget, the federal government said it wanted to make changes to the Copyright Act. It announced a legislative amendment to meet its obligation under the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) to extend the general term of copyright protection from 50 years to 70 years after the death of the author. Like the United States and Mexico, Canada has committed to a copyright protection term that is not less than the life of the author, plus 70 years following the natural person’s death.   Section 6 of the Copyright Act currently stipulates that copyright protection lasts for the author’s lifetime and an additional 50 years after their death. The section will now read as follows: Except as otherwise expressly provided by this Act, the term for which copyright subsists is the life of the author, the remainder of the calendar year in which the author dies, and a period of 70 years following the end of that calendar year. [emphasis added]. The term of copyright is also extended to 70 years after the death of the author or the last surviving co-author in the case of posthumous works and collaborations. Finally, Bill C-19 clarifies that legislative amendments to the Copyright Act do not reactivate copyrights that expired before the effective date of the amendments. [1] RSC 1985, c C-42.

    Read more
  3. Cybersecurity and the dangers of the Internet of Things

    While the Canadian government has said it intends to pass legislation dealing with cybersecurity (see Bill C-26 to enact the Critical Cyber Systems Protection Act), many companies have already taken significant steps to protect their IT infrastructure. However, the Internet of Things is too often overlooked in this process. This is in spite of the fact that many devices are directly connected to the most important IT infrastructure for businesses. Industrial robots, devices that control production equipment in factories, and devices that help drivers make deliveries are just a few examples of vulnerable equipment. Operating systems and a range of applications are installed on these devices, and the basic operations of many businesses and the security of personal information depend on the security of the devices and their software. For example: An attack could target the manufacturing equipment control systems on the factory floor and result in an interruption of the company’s production and significant recovery costs and production delays. By targeting production equipment and industrial robots, an attacker could steal the blueprints and manufacturing parameters for various processes, which could jeopardize a company’s trade secrets. Barcode scanners used for package delivery could be infected and transmit information to hackers, including personal information. The non-profit Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) has released a list of the top ten security risks for the Internet of Things.1 Leaders of companies that use this kind of equipment must be aware of these issues and take measures to manage these risks. We would like to comment on some of the risks which require appropriate policies and good company governance to mitigate them. Weak or unchangeable passwords: Some devices are sold with common or weak initial passwords. It is important to ensure that passwords are changed as soon as devices are set up and to keep tight control over them. Only designated IT personnel should know the passwords for configuring these devices. You should also avoid acquiring equipment that does not allow for password management (for example, a device with an unchangeable password). Lack of updates: The Internet of Things often relies on computers with operating systems that are not updated during their lifetime. As a result, some devices are vulnerable because they use operating systems and software with known vulnerabilities. Good governance includes ensuring that such devices are updated and acquiring only devices that make it easy to perform regular updates. Poor management of the fleet of connected devices: Some companies do not have a clear picture of the Internet of Things deployed in their company. It is crucial to have an inventory of these devices with their role in the company, the type of information they contain and the parameters that are essential to their security. Lack of physical security: Wherever possible, access to these devices should be protected. Too often, devices are left unattended in places where they are accessible to the public. Clear guidelines should be provided to employees to ensure safe practices, especially for equipment that is used on the road. A company’s board of directors plays a key role in cybersecurity. In fact, the failure of directors to monitor risks and to ensure that an adequate system of controls is in place can expose them to liability. Here are some elements of good governance that companies should consider practising: Review the composition of the board of directors and the skills matrix to ensure that the team has the required skills. Provide training to all board members to develop their cyber vigilance and equip them to fulfill their duties as directors. Assess cybersecurity risks, including those associated with connected devices, and establish ways to mitigate those risks. The Act to modernize legislative provisions respecting the protection of personal information sets out a number of obligations for the board of directors, including appointing a person in charge of the protection of personal information, having a management plan and maintaining a register of confidentiality incidents. For more information, you can read the following bulletin: Amendments to Privacy Laws: What Businesses Need to Know (lavery.ca) Lastly, a company must at all times ensure that the supplier credentials, passwords and authorizations that make it possible for IT staff to respond are not in the hands of a single person or supplier. This would put the company in a vulnerable position if the relationship with that person or supplier were to deteriorate. See OWASP top 10

    Read more
  4. Bill C-18 (Online News Act): Canada looking to create a level playing field for news media

    Earlier this month, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez introduced Bill C-18 (Online News Act) in Parliament. This bill, which was largely inspired by similar legislation in Australia, aims to reduce bargaining imbalances between online platforms and Canadian news outlets in terms of how these “digital news intermediaries” allow news content to be accessed and shared on their platforms. If passed, the Online News Act would, among other things, require these digital platforms such as Google and Facebook to enter into fair commercial agreements with news organizations for the use and dissemination of news related content on their platforms. Bill C-18, which was introduced on April 5, 2022, has a very broad scope, and covers all Canadian journalistic organizations, regardless of the type of media (online, print, etc.), if they meet certain eligibility criteria. With respect to the “digital news intermediaries” on which the journalistic content is shared, Bill C-18 specifically targets online communication platforms such as search engines or social media networks through which news content is made available to Canadian users and which, due to their size, have a significant bargaining imbalance with news media organizations. The bill proposes certain criteria by which this situation of bargaining imbalance can be determined, including the size of the digital platform, whether the platform operates in a market that provides a strategic advantage over news organizations and whether the platform occupies a prominent position within its market. These are clearly very subjective criteria which make it difficult to precisely identify these “digital news intermediaries.” Bill C-18 also currently provides that the intermediaries themselves will be required to notify the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (“CRTC”) of the fact that the Act applies to them. The mandatory negotiation process is really the heart of Bill C-18. If passed in its current form, digital platform operators will be required to negotiate in good faith with Canadian media organizations to reach fair revenue sharing agreements. If the parties fail to reach an agreement at the end of the negotiation and mediation process provided for in the legislation, a panel of three arbitrators may be called upon to select the final offer made by one of the parties. For the purposes of enforceability, the arbitration panel’s decision is then deemed, to constitute an agreement entered into by the parties. Finally, Bill C-18 provides digital platforms the possibility of applying to the CRTC for an exemption from mandatory arbitration provided that their revenue sharing agreements meet the following criteria: Provide fair compensation to the news businesses for news content that is made available on their platforms; Ensure that an appropriate portion of the compensation would be used by the news businesses to support the production of local, regional and national news content; Do not allow corporate influence to undermine the freedom of expression and journalistic independence enjoyed by news outlets; Contribute to the sustainability of Canada’s digital news marketplace; Ensure support for independent local news businesses, and ensure that a significant portion of independent local news businesses benefit from the deals; and Reflect the diversity of the Canadian news marketplace, including diversity with respect to language, racialized groups, Indigenous communities, local news and business models. A bill of this scope will certainly be studied very closely by the members of Parliament, and it would not be surprising if significant amendments were made during this process. We believe that some clarifications would be welcome, particularly as to the precise identity of businesses that will be considered “digital information intermediaries” for the purposes of the Online News Act.

    Read more