Parody and copyright: In the Canadian government's own words
David Akin has unearthed a revealing memorandum from last spring that states the government's view on the protection of parody and satire under Canadian copyright law as well as highlighting one of the issues raised at the highest levels of the government before the introduction of Bill C-61.
On the question of the law, the memo to then-Industry Minister Jim Prentice concludes:
Although the apparent shift towards a more liberal interpretation of the fair dealing exception by Canadian courts, as represented by the CCH decision, may result in uses such as parody and satire behing held to be within the scope of the exception, such an outcome is far from certain.
The memo is important for two reasons. First, it confirms that even the government internally recognizes that the current scope of fair dealing may not cover parody and satire (a position later confirmed by the Canwest case in B.C.). This again highlights why creator groups should be demanding expansion of fair dealing.
Second, it points to an interesting debate within the Cabinet over Bill C-61. The memo indicates that it is advice to the Minister arising from a question at the Cabinet Operations Committee about whether the Copyright Act's fair dealing provision covers parody and satire. This suggests that at least one cabinet minister raised questions about the scope of fair dealing as C-61 was going through its final approvals within government. Even more tellingly, Prentice ignored the concerns and moved forward with C-61 without addressing the issue.
Michael Geist is a law professor and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa.