Friday, November 16, 2007

Canadian Photocopy Suit

Access Canada, a licensing organization, has sued Staples/Business Depot for in-store photocopying. It appears from commentary that the copying was done by customers on machines provided by the company. Here is an article in Canadian Press:

Canadian Press

November 15, 2007
Access Copyright sues Staples/Business Depot for copyright infringement

TORONTO - Access Copyright, which represents almost 9,000 Canadian writers and publishers, is suing retailer Staples/The Business Depot for copyright infringement, claiming $10 million in damages over unauthorized photocopying by store customers.

The publishing organization said Thursday its lawsuit contains the largest claim to arise from copyright infringement of published works in Canada.

"Staples/Business Depot is a sizable, for-profit organization that has built part of its business through a lucrative service that exploits the published works of authors, photographers and publishers," Access Copyright said in a release.

"Companies that photocopy illegally are effectively taking money directly out of the pockets of creators and publishers who depend on book sales and copyright royalties for their livelihood."

Companies that profit from illegal photocopying "are undermining the work of others," said Maureen Cavan, executive director of Access Copyright. "Staples/Business Depot is no different from those organizations that profit from illegally downloading copyright protected music or the unauthorized sharing of videos and published works on the Internet."

Access Copyright said it has been investigating Staples/Business Depot since 1998 in response to concerns raised by creators and publishers.

"Despite repeated attempts by Access Copyright to reach a settlement and come to an amicable resolution, Staples/Business Depot has made no perceivable changes to their business practices.

The great Canadian copyright scholar Michael Geist had this to say on his blog:

Given the high stakes, this is the sort of case that could end up at the Supreme Courtof Canada. The last time the court addressed the question of photocopying and copyright, the publishers lost badly, with the court ruling that libraries are entitled to presume that their facilities are being used lawfully. Moreover, the Court ruled that fair dealing is a user right that should not be unduly constrained.

It is difficulty to comment fully without seeing the statement of claim, but those twin findings make this a very risky suit for Access Copyright. Staples will likely argue that it has not authorized infringement since it is entitled to presume that its facilities are being used lawfully and that much of the copying on its premises is either personal (ie. the copyright holder is the copier) or being done for research or private study purposes and therefore qualifies as fair dealing. Unless Access Copyright has some damaging evidence to the contrary, the Supreme Court's jurisprudence appears to side with Staples, which may help explain why the parties were unable to reach a settlement.

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