Canadian Supreme Court copyright rules will eviscerate Access Canada's business model

Michael Geist sez,

The implications of last week's Supreme Court of Canada copyright decisions seem readily apparent to just about everybody - other than Access Copyright. There have been numerous posts analyzing the decisions, all of which recognize the expansion of fair dealing. Yet in a release posted hours after losing at Canada's highest court, the copyright collective implausibly claimed that the decision "will have a limited impact on the importance of the Access Copyright licence to the education community" and that it "leaves copyright licensing in the education sector alive and well." To support the claim, Executive Director Maureen Cavan argued that the specific case only covered about seven percent of the copying done in K-12 schools.

The strategy of claiming that little has changed may have worked with some institutions after the 2004 CCH copyright decision, but it is very unlikely to do so this time.

It is true that the specific case involved a small percentage of overall K-12 school copying, but the court's fair dealing analysis applies to all copying, not just the copies at issue. In this specific case, the court ruled the Copyright Board's analysis of the fair dealing six factor test was unreasonable, an unmistakable signal to reverse its ruling. More broadly, the decision eviscerates the current Access Copyright business model that is heavily reliant on educational revenues. The decision does not create a free-for-all - schools will continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on books, database licences, and transactional licences - but the need for an additional Access Copyright licence for schools at all levels is now unquestionably in doubt.

Just how badly did Access Copyright fare at the Supreme Court?

Why the Supreme Court's Copyright Decisions Eviscerate Access Copyright's Business Model (Thanks, Michael!)



  1. I read the collective’s press release soon after the Supreme Court decision came out. I was surprised at how non-plussed they were about losing. I guess this was the only rationale response – pretend that their sky really wasn’t falling, and hope institutions buy the “nothing’s changed” line. My fear now however is that Harper is going to rewrite the copyright act to make the court’s decision moot.

    1. Their spokes-weasels would have to be either idiotic or atypically truth-constrained to say anything else…

      If they just come out and say ‘yup, we are totally screwed’ they might as well be providing advice about what people can now get away with. By not doing so, they preserve a pall of FUD that should keep a fair number of customers without access to robust legal advice in line.

    2. The board will do just fine since they have most Canadian universities in their pocket.

  2. Come on, people. You’ve had a good run and scammed a lot of people out of a lot of money. I suggest you admit it’s over, go to the Cayman’s or Switzerland, visit your money and enjoy the rest of your miserable lives.

  3.  It was pretty obvious that the Supreme Court’s decisions would cripple Access Copyright. Universities (including my alma mater) have been pulling out of planned agreements with them across the country.

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