Until recent amendments, educational institutions were already permitted to make single copies of news programs and news commentary programs and to perform such copies before the students. This exception used to be subject to an important limitation: it was only good for one year after the copy was made. After the expiration of the one year period, the educational institutions had a choice of either destroying the copy or paying royalties for its continued use.
The amended Copyright Act removes these limitations and allows educational institutions to make and use such copies at any time without paying royalties.
BOTTOM LINE: This amendment will streamline the way educational institutions use recordings of news broadcasts. They no longer have to keep track of whether the recording was made more than a year ago.
By itself, this could be regarded as a positive step.
However, taken together with the rest of the amendments vastly expanding the legalized unauthorized use of works protected by copyright, Canada is finding itself more and more testing the boundaries of its obligation under the Berne Convention, which requires that any exceptions to the exclusive right of copyright owners to reproduce their works be subject to three limitations:
1. the exception may only be permitted in certain special cases;
2. unauthorized use must not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work; and
3. unauthorized use must not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the copyright owner.
Instead of carefully carving out situations where an exception would make it easier to use protected works without hurting the interests of copyright owners, Canada is taking the road of thwarting the interests of copyright owners under the guise of serving the interests of the public and in the name of mythical “user rights”.
The changes to this particular section will likely have a miniscule effect on the market for news programs, but the general trend is threatening. How long will it be until we face a situation masterfully described in “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand:
”All patents and copyrights, pertaining to any devices, inventions, formulas, processes and works of any nature whatsoever, shall be turned over to the nation as a patriotic emergency gift by means of Gift Certificates to be signed voluntarily by the owners of all such patents and copyrights. The Unification Board shall then license the use of such patents and copyrights to all applicants, equally and without discrimination, for the purpose of eliminating monopolistic practices, discarding obsolete products and making the best available to the whole nation.”
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