The Supreme Court of Canada says a copyright collective cannot force York University to pay specific tariffs for the use of published works in the classroom.
In its unanimous decision today, the high court says the law does not empower the Access Copyright collective to enforce royalty payments set out in a tariff approved by a federal board if a user chooses not to be bound by a licence.
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The unanimous and unusually prompt decision, delivered by Justice Abella, dismissed both appeals. Reflecting 85 years of legislative policy and jurisprudence, and reaffirming its previous stance on the importance of user rights as part of a balanced copyright regime, the SCC confirmed that Access Copyright’s tariffs are not mandatory. A tariff binds the collective society in setting a maximum amount for rates, but does not bind a user who has not chosen the collective’s licence to pay compensation under the tariff. This means that universities and their libraries can choose how they manage copyright compliance.
The Court declined to issue a declaration on York University’s fair dealing guidelines, pointing out that, since the tariff was not mandatory, there was no “live dispute” and that Access Copyright has no basis to sue for infringement. The SCC did, however, opt to point out some important errors made in lower courts in assessing fair dealing, including clarification that fairness must be addressed by assessing individual students’ uses of fair dealing rather than aggregate copying by an institution.
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Statement from York University
Statement From Access Copyright