Bill C-11: the latest and final attempt to update Canada’s copyright laws

With the publication of Bill C-11 on September 29, Canada will soon have a new Copyright Act. The new act is identical to Bill C-32 which was introduced in the previous parliament but died at the election. Government ministers have said that they anticipate Royal Assent by the end of the year. As with Bill C-32, there are a number of key changes that will impact the newspaper industry.

  •  “Fair dealing” will be expanded to include education, parody and satire.
  • There will be a new exception allowing the free use by educators and students of content posted to websites without expectation of payment.
  • It will be illegal to “break” digital locks.
  • Photographers will be the first owners of copyright in commissioned images.
  • Clarifying the position of ISPs so that they are exempt from liability when they are intermediaries, although they will have to abide by a “notice and notice” regime in respect of alleged copyright infringement.

For newspapers, there are two key areas of concern: the potential impact on licensing and other content sale arrangements, and the change in copyright around photographs, which gives increased leverage to freelance photographers.

Missing from Bill C-11 is the proposal advanced by Newspapers Canada in all of its recent submissions on copyright law reform for the elimination of the provision in the current Act that limits the reuse of material authored by employed journalists in non-print formats.

Given that groups that have already commented on Bill C-32 will not be given another opportunity to speak, Newspapers Canada’s options are limited. The message so far is that any amendments will be minor and technical, and that there will be no policy shifts, meaning Bill C-11 is likely to be enacted in its current form. Overall, newspapers will not be impacted as negatively as (for example) textbook publishers, but Bill C-11 certainly doesn’t represent a step forward for the industry.

If you have any questions about copyright laws please contact John Hinds, Newspapers Canada president and CEO, at