If It’s December, It Must Be Time to Talk About Copyright (Again)

Kathy Biehl’s article on www.llrx.com “Bloggers Beware: Debunking Nine Copyright Myths of the Online World” provides a very helpful framework for considering copyright issues that many law firms are dealing with these days.

How copyright law impacts many day to day knowledge management and research activities in law firms is a subject that has consumed and will continue to consume many hours of time.


  1. I enjoyed Biehl’s piece though I thought it scanted fair use.
    Canadian lawyers know not to equate American fair use doctrines with Canadian fair dealing.
    CIPO has a useful summary:
    Fair dealing and exceptions

    People such as critics, reviewers and researchers often quote works by other authors in articles, books, and so on. Are they infringing copyright? Not necessarily. The Copyright Act provides that any “fair dealing” with a work for purposes of private study or research, or for criticism, review or news reporting is not infringement. However, in the case of criticism, review, or news reporting, the user is required to give the source and the author’s, performer’s, sound recording maker’s or broadcaster’s name, if known.

    The line between fair dealing and infringement is a thin one. There are no guidelines that define the number of words or passages that can be used without permission from the author. Only the courts can rule whether fair dealing or infringement is involved. In addition to fair dealing, the Copyright Act has exceptions for different categories of users. One category is non-profit educational institutions. These are permitted to make copies and perform works and other subject matter protected by copyright, free of charge, in the classroom, subject to certain restrictions. Educational institutions are also permitted to make use of works protected by copyright if they are done on the premises of an educational institution for educational or training purposes, provided there are no suitable substitutes available in the commercial marketplace. Educational institutions may copy news and news commentary (excluding documentaries) from radio and television broadcasts and keep the copy for educational use on school premises for up to one year from the date the tape is made. All other types of radio and television broadcasts can be copied by educational institutions and kept for up to 30 days to decide whether the copy will be used for educational purposes. If the copy is used for educational purposes, a royalty set by the Copyright Board must be paid.

    Another category of user having exceptions under the Copyright Act are “non-profit libraries, archives and museums.” These institutions may copy published and unpublished works protected by copyright in order to maintain and manage their collections. Examples are making a copy for insurance purposes and to preserve a rare, original work which is deteriorating.

    This can be done as long as copies are not commercially available in a medium that meets the institution’s needs. Libraries, archives and museums may copy an entire article of a scholarly, scientific or technical nature provided the copy is used for private study or research purposes. Articles in a newspaper or periodical which are not scholarly, scientific or technical can also be copied if the article is at least 12 months old at the time the copy is made, and provided the copy is used for private study or research purposes.

  2. wow, having given a reading to the original post, it looks like almost anything most bloggers do is in violation of the copyright law.
    But then again I would like to point out that this is US perspective, which may not necessarily apply to all netizens. The legal scenario in which one operates may be considerably different.