Canadian Copyright Law/Exemptions and Defences

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Fair Dealing[edit]

Fair dealing in Canadian Copyright law provides for an exemption to copyright infringement when the use of the work is for the purpose of research or private study, criticism or a review, or for news reporting. In comparison with the US fair use clause this is a closed list and must fall into one of the three categories for the use of the works to not constitute infringement.

With the CCH Canadian case the Court has largely reframed much of the use of the exemption as a "user right" to counter balance the rights of copyright holders. As such, the exception is always available even when other exceptions apply.

In considering fair dealing the Court makes the following general observation:

It is important to clarify some general considerations about exceptions to copyright infringement. Procedurally, a defendant is required to prove that his or her dealing with a work has been fair; however, the fair dealing exception is perhaps more properly understood as an integral part of the Copyright Act than simply a defence. Any act falling within the fair dealing exception will not be an infringement of copyright. The fair dealing exception, like other exceptions in the Copyright Act, is a user's right. In order to maintain the proper balance between the rights of a copyright owner and users' interests, it must not be interpreted restrictively. ... 'User rights are not just loopholes. Both owner rights and user rights should therefore be given the fair and balanced reading that befits remedial legislation.'"

The Court then establishes six principal criteria for evaluating fair use.

  1. The Purpose of the Dealing Is it for research, private study, criticism, review or news reporting? It expresses that "these allowable purposes should not be given a restrictive interpretation or this could result in the undue restriction of users' rights."
  2. The Character of the Dealing How were the works dealt with? Was there a single copy or were multiple copies made? Were these copies distributed widely or to a limited group of people? Was the copy destroyed after its purpose was accomplished? What are the normal practices of the industry?
  3. The Amount of the Dealing How much of the work was used? What was the importance of the infringed work? Quoting trivial amounts may alone sufficiently establish fair dealing. In some cases even quoting the entire work may be fair dealing.
  4. Alternatives to the Dealing Was a "non-copyrighted equivalent of the work" available to the user? Could the work have been properly criticized without being copied?
  5. The Nature of the Work Copying from a work that has never been published could be more fair than from a published work "in that its reproduction with acknowledgement could lead to a wider public dissemination of the work - one of the goals of copyright law. If, however, the work in question was confidential, this may tip the scales towards finding that the dealing was unfair."
  6. Effect of the Dealing on the Work Is it likely to affect the market of the original work? "Although the effect of the dealing on the market of the copyright owner is an important factor, it is neither the only factor nor the most important factor that a court must consider in deciding if the dealing is fair." A statement that a dealing infringes may not be sufficient, but evidence will often be required.

"These factors may be more or less relevant to assessing the fairness of a dealing depending on the factual context of the allegedly infringing dealing. In some contexts, there may be factors other than those listed here that may help a court decide whether the dealing was fair."