Canada's national copyright office doesn't understand copyright

Mark sez, "Canada's official, federal IP Office website offers a quiz to help the public learn about copyright - but the "correct" answer to one important question is in fact wrong, suggesting that some legitimate copying practices are infringement."

What constitutes a copyright infringement?
* Reproducing an article without the owner’s permission
* Playing songs on the radio without the owner’s permission
* Recording the performance of your favourite group without permission
* All of the above

According to the quiz, “all of the above” is the correct answer, but this is not true in Canadian copyright law. None of the above uses are categorically infringements: some uses are protected by the fair dealing exemption, others by licensing. The quiz offers no explanation for designating its purported correct answer.

I find this error a troubling detail, as it shows the national copyright office to be publicizing incorrect legal information and misleading the public on an aspect of copyright law that is important to everyday users of copyrighted materials.

Canadian Intellectual Property Office gets its own quiz wrong


  1. To be fair, arguing that “licensing” is a valid answer is wrong – the answers do all say “without the owner’s permission”.

    Not familiar with how the Canadian equivalent of fair use works, though.

    1. The Canadian equivalent to fair use is called “fair dealing” and is, in general, more restrictive than “fair use”.

      Eg. Educational materials must be licensed, permission to screen films in schools must be acquired.  It’s pretty crappy.

    2. There’s two issues: the first is that the answer ‘all of the above’ is wrong, since (as I understand it) the first and third options are typically allowed without specific permission being required in certain circumstances. The second issue is that there is no explanation for the ‘correct’ answer, without which it makes it look like none of these instances are legal in any circumstance. It’s doubtful that this is a mere oversight.

  2. There seems to be this creeping tendency to call any use of content that the entertainment industry disapproves of a crime, even if it quite explicitly is not.

    Even government agencies have been swept up in this trend. If there is a specific law that explicitly defines something as legal, but (for example) VIACOM doesn’t like it, then no government entity will recognize its’ legality when addressing the public, and in fact they will be quite meticulously careful to deceitfully imply that it is a crime.

    I’m extremely uncomfortable with this incestuous relationship.

  3. @boingboing-bfa4c8f989b5998d069da0a75550a7ce:disqus that’s precisely the issue. Like the answer to the little quiz above it rarely presents itself as an outright ridiculous fabrication, rather it hides behind subtle shifts in language and meaning over time.
    If I say “I used BitTorrent to freely download and redistribute copyrighted material belonging to Apple Inc.” then the presumption is immediately that is HAS to be illegal. 

    Bittorrent isn’t illegal, material being copyrighted doesn’t preclude being allowed to download it *or* redistribute it, material being copyrighted doesn’t equate to required payment, and big companies don’t *only* use strong restrictions with copyrighted material they own.

    The combined efforts of a couple decades’ worth of marketing by the BSA, RIAA, ARIA, MPAA etc makes it sound like nothing short of an hanging offense, though. 

  4. If society as a whole can’t stomach oppressive copyright law, it won’t be honored. It’s like trying to prohibit alcohol. It won’t work unless most people believe in it.

    And believe me, nobody wants this save a few grumpy, old rich guys who are spending an unbelievable amount of money trying to put the Internet genie back in its bottle.

  5. However, recording the performance of a group you hate is perfectly fine.

    Cory’s absolutely right, though. For example, the Law Society of Upper Canada was sued for copyright infringement for providing photocopy services to researchers. The Court unanimously held that the Law Society’s practice fell within the bounds of fair dealing.

    I completely stole that from Wikipedia, by the way. Muhahahaha!

  6. What is more concerning to me is that the questions and answer are an infringement upon my own copyrights.

    I own my copyrights, and it is MY RIGHT to place limitations upon the copying of that which I own copyright to, and NO ONE ELSE can enforce or place restrictions upon the freedom of others to freely copy MY copyrighted media.

    Those who presume to restrict all people from copying any copyrighted material which they do not own the copyright on, are committing anti-competitive practices, and assaulting my customers, who are free to copy my copyrighted materials because I place no restrictions upon doing so within my copy rights.

    It is not legal for ANYONE but myself to place limitations upon MY copyrights.

    This is a very serious matter, and the law is not ambiguous in this matter, and those attempting to obfuscate the legal meaning and function of copyright to assault their competition are asking for a very serious class action lawsuit after a decade of their war on other and competing copyright holders.

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