Copyrights, Federalism, and the Constitutionality of Canada's Private Copying Levy

By de Beer, Jeremy F. | McGill Law Journal, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview

Copyrights, Federalism, and the Constitutionality of Canada's Private Copying Levy


de Beer, Jeremy F., McGill Law Journal


This paper explores the scope of Parliament's authority under the copyrights clause of the Canadian constitution. Particular consideration is given to the overlap between copyrights, which are within federal jurisdiction, and property and civil rights, which are the legislative domain of the provinces. As a concrete example, this paper assesses the constitutionality of Canada's private copying levy. Because the levy has been interpreted very broadly, it is arguably in pith and substance a matter of property and civil rights. Significant reinterpretation could narrow the scope of the levy and bring it within federal jurisdiction over copyrights. Otherwise, the levy may not be sufficiently integrated with an overall valid scheme to withstand scrutiny. More generally, this paper concludes that Canada's copyrights clause does not give Parliament carte blanche to enact cultural, economic, technological, or regulatory policies under the auspices of the Copyright Act. Copyrights legislation must remain tightly linked to authors' cultural creativity, and not unduly compromise matters of property and civil rights.

Cet article explore la portee de l'autorite parlementaire en ce qui a trait a la notion de droit d'auteur telle que defraie par la Constitution canadienne. L'article se penche plus particulierement sur les notions entre chevauchees de droit d'auteur, droit qui releve de la competence federale, et les notions de propriete et droits civils, qui eux relevent de la competence legislative provinciale. L'article examine un exemple concret : la constitutionalite de la redevance sur la copie pour usage prive. Cette redevance ayant beneficie d'une interpretation tres large, il est possible de soutenir que son caractere veritable releve d'une question de propriete et de droits civils. Une reinterpretation approfondie de cette notion peut neanmoins reduire l'etendue de la redevance, ce qui la ramenerait dans le cadre de competence de l' exercice federale en matiere de droit d'auteur. La redevance ne serait sinon suffisamment integree dans un exercice valide de competence pour defier tout examen en son encontre. Plus generalement, l'auteur arrive a la conclusion que la disposition visant le droit d'auteur ne defere pas au Parlement une carte blanche en ce qui est de decreter des politiques culturelles, economiques, et technologiques ou soit encore des mesures de reglement dans le cadre de la loi sur le droit d'auteur. La loi sur le droit d'auteur doit rester etroitement liee a la creativite culturelle des auteurs et ne doit pas indument compromettre des matieres de propriete et de droits civils.

Introduction

I.   Scope of Jurisdiction over Copyrights
     A. Jurisprudential Vacuum
     B. Interpreting Canada's Copyrights Clause
     C. Copyrights & Trenching

II.  Canada's Private Copying Levy  A. Purpose
     B. Effect
     C. Summary

III. Other Federal Powers
     A. Peace, Order, and Good Government
     B. Trade and Commerce
     C. Taxation

Conclusion

Introduction

Copyright law is evolving in response to changing social values, new modes of expression, economic circumstances, consumer demands, and technological innovations. The Canadian Copyright Act (1) is being amended and reamended with increasing frequency. (2) Though incremental tweaking of copyright legislation is sometimes necessary or desirable, incrementalism has a drawback. (3) Bit by bit, it can pull us away from the core values and organizing principles underlying copyright. Eventually, we can find ourselves in a position quite different from where we started.

Relatively recent and dramatic shifts in copyright law and policy have brought this issue to the surface. In the last decade especially, the nature and scope of copyright protection has exploded. Parliament has expanded the Copyright Act to envelop new parties, and has granted new powers and privileges to existing right-sholders. Canada is now on the verge of implementing two international treaties to further expand the boundaries of copyright. …

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