The Practical Side of Copyright

Having glanced through a number of the Theme Week articles, I haven’t yet found the practical advice I’m longing for – how can I (a lawyer who should know the law) make sure I don’t go astray when posting to SLAW?

Let me give some simple examples. I decide I want to include a link to an article I’ve recently read on another website. Is it clear that I can link to an “embedded” page rather than just to the first level page? What if I read the article on one of those new “aggregation” pages (I forget the technical term for these) – I seem to recall someone objecting to a link to this source (and not the original page).

Or what if I want to quote something really impressive that someone else has written? When is a footnoted quote not enough and when do I need the author’s permission?

Or what if I come across some fascinating content on a a website (perhaps a law firm website) where the law firm has claimed copyright in the site while at the same time making the information on the site readily available for downloading or printing (the ever present “print friendly version” button). Is there some contradiction here?

Or what if I find some amazing writing in a factum (the lawyer who really wanted to be a writer) that a lawyer at another firm has filed in a court proceeding? Am I free to use that material however I want?

Notwithstanding the attempt of the Supreme Court of Canada to give some guidance to the legal profession, I profess to be as confused as ever. My confusion probably started as an articling student, as I diligently copied cases and extracts of journals and texts for inclusion on books of authority being sent to courts and other lawyers. Isn’t this the essence of legal research – using the work of others?

So that I don’t go astray, I must acknowledge that the thought for this post came from the work done by Brian Bawden, who has produced a very thoughtful guide to understanding copyright which has been discussed by knowledge managers in New York and Toronto over the past year.

As I finish this post, I have to acknowledge that intellectual property protection has had some unexpectedly positive consequences. After all, I am sitting at my desk listening to an iTunes exclusive Bonnie Raitt album on my iPod. I don’t mind crediting my iPod ownership and iTunes downloading to our current legal framework for the protection of IP.

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