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Supreme Court Rules on ISP Copyright Liability

July-7-2004

Area Entertainment, Communications, Technology, Intellectual Property

Summary


In the third of a trilogy of significant recent copyright decisions,  the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled unanimously that Internet service providers (ISPs), when acting as intermediaries (i.e. conduits for Internet communication), are not liable for copyright infringement.  The Court concluded that as long as an ISP deals with the medium instead of the message it does not risk liability for copyright infringement.

The Court also confirmed (by majority) that the Copyright Act is not limited in its application to Internet communications emanating from host servers located in Canada.  The Court applied the jurisdictional test it developed in other contexts to copyright infringement over the Internet, while the minority would have adopted an Internet-specific jurisdictional test. 

Given the narrow ambit of the appeal, the decision leaves important questions unanswered regarding the application of copyright law to the Internet.  The decision therefore makes the current round of copyright law reform no less relevant and timely.

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