Access Copyright – the photocopy royalty-collecting society that has gradually morphed into a lobbying-and-lawsuit engine – continues its misadventures in litigation this week with a lawsuit against York University over the institution’s fair dealing policy.
Access Copyright has decided to fight the law – along with governments, educational institutions, teachers, librarians, and taxpayers … it has filed a lawsuit against York University over its fair dealing guidelines, which are similar to those adopted by educational institutions across the country. While the lawsuit has yet to be posted online, the Access Copyright release suggests that the suit is not alleging specific instances of infringement, but rather takes issue with guidelines it says are “arbitrary and unsupported” and that “authorize and encourage copying that is not supported by the law.”
Stakeholders in copyright and Canadian education are questioning the timing of the action, and the targeting of York, seeing the action as – variously – a test, as a fishing expedition, and/or as an intimidation tactic to chill the more robust and eminently lawful approach to fair dealing that is taking hold across Canadian schools and campuses. It may be too soon to forecast a decision, but the recent case law history and the now-amended copyright legislation (which explicitly provides for educational fair dealing) are both decidedly in York’s favour. The “quintet” of Supreme Court copyright cases that were decided last summer – cases that included Alberta (Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright) - have helped to restore some balance to Canadian copyright law in favour of users (for a welcome change), and, in the process, have made the legal climate very inhospitable to actions like the one Access Copyright is now pursuing.
One has to wonder whether all the money Access Copyright spends on legal expenses wouldn’t be better reallocated to its core business: remunerating writers.