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Copyright Law Basics (1) – Copyright is a Balancing Act

September 24, 2014

By Alan Kilpatrick

copyrightA copyright will protect you from pirates. And make you a fortune.”

Copyright is presently a hot topic in Canada. Discussions about copyright often lead to contention and controversy. A basic understanding of copyright law can help ensure fair and equitable access to law, justice, and information.

What is copyright? Copyright law strives to encourage new ideas and the dissemination of knowledge. We can think of copyright primarily as a balance between two different interest groups: copyright owners and copyright users. Copyright owners hold the copyright in works. This can include publishers, artists, writers, or creators. Copyright users are those who use and enjoy copyrighted works. This includes consumers.

Two influential Supreme Court of Canada decisions have shaped the discussion on copyright balance:

CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2004 SCC 13 explained that the Copyright Act, RSC 1985, C-42 has dual objectives and goals,

The Copyright Act has dual objectives…usually presented as a balance between promoting the public interest in the encouragement and dissemination of works of the arts and intellect and obtaining a just reward for the creator…The proper balance among these…lies not only in recognizing the creator’s rights but in giving due weight to their limited nature. In interpreting the Copyright Act, courts should strive to maintain an appropriate balance between these two goals.

Théberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain inc., 2002 SCC 34 recognized the importance of maintaining this balance,

The proper balance among these and other public policy objectives lies not only in recognizing the creator’s rights but in giving due weight to their limited nature. In crassly economic terms it would be as inefficient to overcompensate artists and authors for the right of reproduction as it would be self-defeating to undercompensate them…

Copyright that lacks this balance, where things are tilted too far towards the interests of one group or the other, may hinder access to information. Copyright owners and users are each granted certain rights under the Copyright Act. In the coming weeks, we will discuss owner’s rights and user’s rights. During this discussion, it is important to recall that the Copyright Act is a balancing act.

(Reposted from Legal Sourcery)



CanLII. (2002). Théberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain inc. Retrieved from

CanLII. (2004). Law Society of Upper Canada v. CCH Canadian Limited. Retrieved from

Geist, M. (2010). From “Radical Extremism” to “Balanced Copyright”: Canadian Copyright and the Digital Agenda. Toronto: Irwin Law.

Justice Canada. (2014). Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42). Retrieved from

From → Copyright, Law

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