The Supreme Court of Canada has reined in the application of copyright fees levied on music, video games and printed materials that Canadians use in different ways.
The top court examined five different cases at once that touched on tariffs set by the Copyright Board.
In one of the biggest cases, pitting ministers of education and school boards across the country against a body that collects royalty fees for publishers, the court sided with the educators.
It found that the Copyright Board had incorrectly zeroed in on teachers who photocopied materials for their students rather than the students who were using them.
The use of the works by students for study does not infringe the Copyright Act.
The court sent the case back to the Copyright Board, but the ruling is likely to have a major financial impact on educational institutions of all levels across the country that pay millions a year for the right to photocopy.
The court also decided that there should be no copyright fees levied on cable companies or other digital providers when music is downloaded, but that artists should be compensated when it is streamed online.
In another case, the judges found that movie theatres, broadcasters and cable companies shouldn't be charged for the music that's part of a film or a TV program that they are showing.
Similarly, software companies that sell their video games online should not have to pay royalties for the music that is included in the games.
Finally, cable and other Internet providers should not have to pay fees when music downloaders listen to previews of songs. The court found that those previews constituted research and therefore did not infringe the Copyright Act.
In all the cases involving music, royalties are already levied somewhere else in the creative or purchase process – for example, a film or game producer paying for the rights to use a song.
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