Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Canada joins Marrakesh Treaty

I have long called on the Canadian government to join the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. yesterday, the Toronto Star reports that Industry Minister James Moore announced Canada's accession.  This is great news.

Eight countries have ratified or acceded to the Marrakesh Treaty, which will enter into force when that number reaches 20.  Canada's accession brings that number to 9.  Canada is the first G7 country to implement the treaty.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Canada's Copyright Mystique

Two recent law review articles, both responding to the July 2012 release of the Supreme Court of Canada's "pentalogy" of decisions on copyright, take somewhat opposite views of the relationship of the Court's decision to Canadian copyright history.

Professor Ysolde Gendreau of Université de Montréal's law school argues[1] that Canadian copyright law, leading up to the Court's decision, lacked a statement of a broad purpose or philosophy of Canadian copyright.  There was, for example, no statement in the preamble to the Canadian Copyright Act outlining the act's overall purpose.  It also lacked an "historical mystique" that would lend an historical purpose to Canadian copyright, the way that, for example, the storied history of the French authors' rights movement lends understanding to the interpretation of French copyright today.  Given this absence, the Court strode into the void and fashioned for Canadians a purpose that placed users' rights on a similar level with authors' rights in Canadian copyright law--a step that Gendreau believes has "no textual foundation."

Professor Myra Tawfik of the University of Windsor's law school argues[2], on the other hand, that the Court, rather than taking a wrong turn in the absence of clear directional purpose, "demonstrates  a depth of understanding of, and a confidence in, Canada's own particular copyright story"--a story that is very different from those of countries like France, the US, or the UK.  Tawfik argues that the Court now finds itself not in a relative void, but rather in the midst of a fairly developed area of Canadian law: "Canadian copyright law is sufficiently well developed and internally coherent to stand on its own merits."

Both authors note that the literature on the "historical mystique" of Canadian copyright is beginning to appear; they cite my book, The Struggle for Canadian Copyright, Eli McLaren's Dominion and Agency, and Pierre-Emmanuel Moyse's "The Colonies Strike Back" chapter as offering some of the history of Canadian copyright.

In my view, Professor Tawfik's view is correct. The Court's view of the purpose of Canadian copyright law, which places users' rights on a similar footing to those of authors, reflects longstanding concerns in Canadian copyright history with the accessibility of books, their affordability, and also with developing Canadian creative industries and encouraging Canadian creativity.  The developing range of literature on Canadian copyright history reflects this.

1. Gendreau, Ysolde. "Recent Canadian Development: Fair Dealing: Canada Holds to its Position." J. Copyright Soc'y 60 (2013): 673-673.

2. Tawfik, Myra J. "The Supreme Court of Canada and the" Fair Dealing Trilogy": Elaborating a Doctrine of User Rights under Canadian Copyright Law." Alberta L. Rev. 51 (2013): 191-201.