By Daniel Davidson
The Supreme Court of “Oh Canada” has begun its reform of copyright law in the country. On Thursday, the justices dropped their decisions concerning copyright royalties for song and video game downloads from the internet. Additionally, they decided on whether or not streaming music online is subject to compensation for the copyright holder.
The big decision came when the Court determined that video game distributors did not have to pay royalties for the music included in the video game. The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada positioned that the distributors selling these video games online needed to be paying their dues. This, even after the music artists were receiving compensation from the video game developers. The Court reasoned that a download and a stream differ saying, “Although a download and stream are both ‘transmissions’ in technical terms … they are not both ‘communications’ for the purposes of the Copyright Act. This is clear from the (Copyright) board’s definition of a stream as a transmission of data that allows the user to listen or view the content at the time of transmission and that is not meant to be reproduced.”
If the Court didn’t rule this way, the distributors of the online video games would have to pay a royalty, for the music within the video game, each time the game was downloaded.
Another decision by the same Court was that royalties do not need to be paid by music retailers for the brief previews of music they provide. There previews can be found at online retailers like iTunes and Amazon.com. The Court reasons that, “Short, low-quality previews do not compete with, or adversely affect, the downloading of the works themselves. Instead, their effect is to increase the sale and dissemination of copyrighted musical works.”
Is this a step in the right direction for the Canadian Copyright Laws? It is obviously in the eye of the beholder, i.e. consumer, distributor, retailer, or artist, whether this Court made the right decision. Cheers.