Chronology of Canadian Copyright Law

The process of revising copyright has been ongoing for many years. While most of the folks with the Digital Copyright Canada forum joined this process in the summer of 2001, some earlier developments will be documented. Each entry will indicate the type of participant: government (the bureaucracy), parliament (members of the elected parliament), senate, court, citizens, NGO (Non-Governmental Organizations), Corporation, etc.

It is important to realize that Canadian copyright law has been constantly changing (See: The same “old” line), with major changes in 1988, 1997, and 2012.

What Copyright regulates are technological acts, and thus Copyright law must continue to be updated to reflect technological change. Our policy question is never whether there should be change, but whether the changes embrace or try to delay inevitable changes brought by new technology.

Please send me a note with any updates.

Department of Canadian Heritage: FAQ which contains History of copyright revision

Department of Industry: Copyright Reform Process

1872: Dominion of Canada bill
Westminster refused to ratify an 1872 Dominion of Canada bill that enshrined a fixed-royalty principle for Canadian publishers to re-print British copyrighted works (Allingham). A 1875 bill was ratified which only allowd Canadian republishing of books that had gone out of print.

UK ratifies Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, which came into force on December 5, 1887.

Canada "passed an act requiring that, in order to secure Canadian copyright, a book would have to be published in Canada within one month of its publication elsewhere" (Allingham)

Legacy recording industry lobbiests like to mention this year, claiming that copyright hasn't changed much since this time.

The reality is that all aspect of the The Copyright Act, chapter seventy of the Revised Statutes of Canada, 1906, and chapter seventeen of the statutes of 1908, as well as all the enactments relating to copyright passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, so far as they were operative in Canada, were repealed as part of the 1921 act (Sections 47 and 48).

1911: U.K Copyright Act
Our copyright act is largely based on U.K. copyright law, and thus the history in the U.K. is important for analyzing Canadian law.

1921: An Act to amend and consolidate the Law relating to Copyright, (S.C. 1921, c. 24)

Full text of act: HTML, OpenDocument, PDF

"The Canadian Copyright Act is an evolving work product of Parliament striving to fulfill its constitutional responsibility for copyright. That responsibility, however, was not fully assumed until 1921, more than fifty years after Confederation. Until then it was divided between the Imperial Copyright Act and sections of other Imperial and Canadian statutes, e.g., the Criminal Code of Canada. During this time, the Parliaments at Westminster and Ottawa were often at odds over which provisions should prevail as the law of the land (Allingham 2001)." (Harry Hillman Chartrand)

Many court cases (Including most recently Robertson v. Thomson Corp., 2006 SCC 43) document this date as the first Canadian copyright act.

When this bill came into force 1924, Canada adopted life+50 as the basic term. Previously Canada used "28-and-14; 28 on formalities; another 14 possible on renewal." (Wallace J.McLean)

1928: Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works

Berne convention comes into force in Canada on April 10, 1928.

From the WIPO notes: Entry into force date given as date of independence. Previous application of Berlin Act by UK: January 1, 1924. Original adherence to Berne Convention by UK: December 5, 1887.


Report: From Gutenberg to Telidon

1985: Revised Statutes (1985), chapter C-42

1985 Parliamentary sub-committee report: A Charter of Rights for Creators


1986 Report: The Government Response to A Charter of Rights for Creators

1988: Bill C-60 (Phase I)

"The original Copyright Act of 1924 was amended in 1988 by Bill C-60 which addressed computer programs, anti-piracy remedies, the relationship of the copyright and industrial design legislation, the Copyright Board, the collective management of copyright, moral rights, the protection of choreographic works, the abolition of compulsory licences for the making of sound recordings, and the right to exhibit artistic works in public. At the time the Act was proclaimed, the Government promised a second package of amendments which was intended to deal with issues, primarily exemptions to the Act, not covered in Bill C-60." (University of Alberta: Copyright)

These amendments came as a result of a 1985 parliamentary sub-committee on the Revision of Copyright. This sub-committee recommended in its report called "A Charter of Rights for Creators" that the Copyright Act be revised immediately to reflect major changes since 1924, when the Act was promulgated.

The obvious question is when the user-rights side (follow-on creators, new methods of production, distribution and funding of creativity, etc) of Copyright will ever be brought forward by the government?

1989: Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement
Compulsory license for cable and satellite retransmission, and expanding concept of "communication to the public" to include all forms of telecommunication.

1993: Bill C-88, An Act to amend the Copyright Act
Redefine "musical work", add retransmission right of musical works

1994: NAFTA
established a retransmission right and system of compensation for certain retransmissions.

1996: World Trade Organization Agreement Implementation Act
Extended copyright to all WTO countries, and gave performers protection against bootleg audio recordings (an unauthorized recording of a live event) and unauthorized live transmissions of their performances.

1997: Bill C-32: (Phase II)
Amendments to Canadian legislation to allow ratification of Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations. Addition of the Private Copying regime, which created the Canadian Private Copying Collective (CPCC). Clarification of Fair Dealings, and addition of some institutional exceptions to copyright. Allow backups of computer software, etc

1997: Tele-Direct (Publications) Inc. v. American Business Information, Inc. (C.A.), 1997 CanLII 6378 (F.C.A.)
Clarified status of database copyright in Canada: "Under subsection 5(1) of the (Copyright) Act, copyright subsists not in a compilation of data per se, but in an original work... the selection or arrangement of data only results in a protected compilation if the end result qualifies as an original intellectual creation"

June 2001: A Framework for Copyright Reform

March/April 2002: Cross-Canada consultation meetings

March 28, 2002: Théberge v. Galerie d'Art du Petit Champlain inc., 2002 SCC 34
Decision concerning the balance between competing rightsholders: owner of copyright in a painting, and owner of the painting. This case is often used in first year property law courses to help students understand that patent, copyright and related exclusive rights are nearly always in conflict with the rights of some tangible property rightsholder. This is useful for non-lawyers to read to understand this dynamic as well.

October 3, 2002: Supporting Culture and Innovation: Report on the Provisions and Operation of the Copyright Act (Section 92 report)

2002: C-11 An Act to amend the Copyright Act

  • Parliament: C-11 An Act to amend the Copyright Act
    Bill introduced in parliament on a fast-track on 9 October 2002 (deemed to have passed all stages at once), and received Royal Assent on 12 December 2002. The purpose was to create an exception to excluded Internet re-transmitters from the purview of the compulsory licence for retransmission, disallowing Internet re-transmitters the same rights as cable and satellite re-transmitters. This set the tone for many of us to understand the government as being opposed to new media, and willing to go out of their way to protect the anti-competative special economic interests of old-media companies.

2003: C-36 An Act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain Acts in consequence

Also known as: L. M. Montgomery Copyright Term Extension Act

The controversial copyright amendments were eventually dropped as there was a December 2003 deadline for unpublished posthumous works entering into the public domain. The bill didn't pass the Senate by the end of 2003, and passed as Bill C-8 in the following session of parliament.

March 4, 2004: CCH Canada v Law Society

March 25, 2004: Status Report on Copyright Reform

March 31, 2004: BMG Canada v Doe ("The CRIA case")

May 2004: Interim Report on Copyright Reform: Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

June 30, 2004: SOCAN v CAIP

March 24, 2005: The Government of Canada Announces Upcoming Amendments to the Copyright Act

May 19, 2005: BMG Canada v Doe ("The CRIA appeal")

June 20, 2005: Minister of Canadian Heritage tables Bill C-60: An Act to amend the Copyright Act

November 28, 2005: Bill C-60 dies on the order paper when the 39th General Election is called

October 12, 2006: Robertson v. Thomson Corp., 2006 SCC 43

June 1, 2007: Minister of Justice tables Bill C-59: An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (unauthorized recording of a movie)

While this bill does not relate to copyright, many people think it does. It adds two offenses to the criminal code relating to the illegal recording of movies in theatres.

July 26, 2007: Euro-Excellence Inc. v. Kraft Canada Inc., 2007 SCC 37

December 7,10-13, 2007: Conservative government does not table “An Act to amend the Copyright Act”
While the Government put a bill “An Act to amend the Copyright Act” on the order paper for the Minister of Industry to table this week, the bill was not tabled before the house adjourned until Monday, January 28. This delay may have been due to public outcry (Coordinated via Facebook, BoingBoing,, etc) against the expected contents of the bill. This grassroots activism included a visit on December 8 to the the Christmas party for riding constituents held by Industry Minister Jim Prentice.
As of June 2008, this bill remained on the order paper.

June 12, 2008: Minister of Industry tables Bill C-61: An Act to amend the Copyright Act

September 7, 2008: Bill C-61 dies on the order paper when the 40th General Election is called

April 24, 2009: Minister of Industry tables Bill C-27

December 30, 2009: Bill C-27 dies on the order paper when parliament is prorogued

July 20, 2009 to September 13, 2009: Public consultations on copyright

March 16, 2010: Charlie Angus tables Bill C-499
"An Act to amend the Copyright Act (audio recording devices)", proposes a simple extension of the existing private copying regime for recorded music to "audio recording devices".

May 14, 2010: Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada c. Bell Canada, 2010 CAF 123

  • Federal Court of Appeal: Decision (CanLII)
    From the decision:
    "[1] This application for judicial review challenges an aspect of the decision rendered by the Copyright Board (the Board) on October 18, 2007. In this decision, the Board applied the exception in section 29 of the Copyright Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-42 (the Act) to the application to certify a tariff submitted by the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) in respect of the offer made to consumers to listen by way of a preview to excerpts of musical works."
  • Courts and the Copyright Board relying on CCH for interpreting fair dealings. This case relating to whether a website, selling digital music files, can offer a 30 second clip for free to consumers as part of Fair dealings for research purposes. Copyright Board said it was, and SOCAN went to federal court for review of decision.

May 25, 2010: Minister of Industry tables Bill C-28

June 2, 2010: Minister of Industry tables Bill C-32

March 26, 2011: Bill C-32 dies on the order paper when the 41st General Election is called

September 29, 2011: Minister of Industry tables Bill C-11, the same bill previously numbered Bill C-32

  • Citizens: Launch of * and * redirect to C-32 specific page on this site

June 29, 2012: Bill C-11 receives Royal Assent

July 12, 2012: Supreme Court of Canada Decisions