Healing Fair Dealing? A Comparative Copyright Analysis of Canada's Fair Dealing to U.K. Fair Dealing and U.S. Fair Use

By D'Agostino, Giuseppina | McGill Law Journal, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Healing Fair Dealing? A Comparative Copyright Analysis of Canada's Fair Dealing to U.K. Fair Dealing and U.S. Fair Use


D'Agostino, Giuseppina, McGill Law Journal


Given the owner-centred nature of current copyright regimes, many commentators are calling for greater consideration of user rights and, more particularly, the development of fair dealing, a legal doctrine that allows for certain uses of copyrighted material without permission of the copyright owner. Fair dealing in Canada has been criticized as weak and overly restrictive, applying only to works used for a closed list of purposes. The Supreme Court of Canada's 2004 decision in CCH Canadian Ltd v. Law Society of Upper Canada (CCH), which elevated fair dealing from a set of exceptions to a user right, has strengthened fair dealing but has also created uncertainty about its scope.

To arrive at a better understanding of Canada's current fair dealing framework, the author presents a historical analysis of Canadian fair dealing and compares Canada's regime with those of the United Kingdom and the United States. Despite CCH's liberalizing effect, the doctrine remains somewhat restrictive, bur it also has features that render it more capable than its U.S. and U.K. equivalents of attaining the balance of interests that copyright regimes seek. U.K. fair dealing lags behind Canada: certain criteria have emerged from the case law consonant to Canada's pre-CCH framework and in many ways there is now a hierarchy of factors with market considerations at the fore. The concept of U.S, fair use, which theoretically allows any type of use to be "fair" and merely provides factors to assist courts in their decision-making, presents a more effective option, though it too has weaknesses and cannot simply be transplanted into another jurisdiction. Canada should rather seek to build on the distinctive features of its fair dealing regime, such as its policy preoccupations that avoid championing owners' rights, and factors for determining fair dealing that are more flexible than those in U.S. fair use. In doing so, the author cautions against eclipsing creators (who are seldom owners) and whose treatment may have become more ambiguous after CCH. The author suggests several ways of improving fair dealing. These solutions are not limited to legal reforms, but also involve grassroots approaches. Copyright best practices developed by users themselves are particularly promising, having already contributed to findings of fairness in CCH and other cases.

Vu la nature des regimes actuels de droit d'auteur, centres sur les interets des proprietaires, plusieurs auteurs reclament une mcilleure prise en consideration des droits des utilisateurs, plus particulierement un developpement approfundi du principe d'utilisation equitable, qui permet certaines utilisations des oeuvres protegees sans la permission du titulaire du droit d'auteur. L'utilisation equitable au Canada a deja ete critiquee comme etant faible et trop restrictive, s'appliquant seulement a du materiel utilise a certaines fins precises. La Cour suprime du Canada, avec sa decisiun de 2004 dans CCH Canadian Ltd. c. Law Society of Upper Canada (CCH), qui a eleve l'utilisation equitable d'une serie d'exceptions a un droit des utilisateurs, a renforce l'utilisation equitable mais a aussi eree de l'incertitude quand a sa portee.

Afin d'arriver a une meilleure comprehension du regime actuel d'utilisatiun equitable au Canada. l'auteure presente une analyse historique du principe et compare le regime canadien a ceux du Royaume-Uni et des Etats-Unis. Malgre l'effet liberalisateur de CCH, le principe reste restrictif, bien qu'il possede aussi das caracteristiques qui le rendent mieux equipe a atteindre l'equilibre das interets que poursuit tout regime de droit d'auteur. L'utilisation equitable au Royaume-Uni tire de l'arriere par rapport a la situation au Canada : certains criteres issus de la jurisprudence sont semblables a ceux du regime canadien d'avant CCH et li y a maintenant une hierarchie de facteurs qui favorisent les considerations du marche. Le concept americain de <>, qui permet theoriquement n'importe quelle type d'utilisation et ne foumit que das facteurs pour assister les tribunaux dans leurs decisions, pr'esente une option plus efficace, mais qui a aussi quelques faiblesses et qui ne peut simplement etre transplantee au sein d'une autre juridiction. …

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