The Supreme Court of Canada made a landmark decision to scrap fees for music download services in Canada.
With the new rulings, online music stores will no longer have to pay for song previews and Internet service providers will no longer be charged for individuals downloading music files, CBC reports.
The court also ruled that video game downloads can be done without providers getting slapped with fees that cover performance royalties. This decision overturned an earlier ruling from the Copyright Board that had allowed the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) to charge providers extra fees for all of these activities.
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Internet service providers such as Rogers Communications, Bell Canada, Telus Communications and Shaw Communications have argued that imposing the extra fees "stifles innovation in Canada." It creates a barrier to the advancement of Canada's digital economy and could discourage the public's use of the Internet, they suggested.
"If SOCAN is entitled to be paid royalties for downloads then essentially it means someone is going to have to bear the cost of this and ultimately it means that costs are going to be passed on to consumers," said Barry Sookman, a lawyer who acted for the Entertainment Software Association in one of the five different copyright cases heard by the top court, according to CBC.
But the rulings announced on Thursday morning don't make all online content sharing free of charge. The court allowed SOCAN to tariff the streaming of music online. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that the service providers will slash the fees imposed on users after getting this break.
According to CBC, this development "theoretically means the online music and video game providers would stop paying SOCAN more money and could drop prices for customers. But there's no guarantee that would happen, according to Sookman."
All of this comes just weeks after Parliament passed Bill C-11 and brought Canadians one step closer to Stop Online Piracy Act-like regulation of their media consumption.
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The SOCAN took another hit with a ruling that concluded the record labels and artists aren't eligible for royalties when their songs are played by theatres, broadcasters or cable companies as part of a movie or TV show soundtrack.
Canadian record labels and performers are unlikely to rejoice over the ruling as it spells less income for them in the future.
"Music enhances life and those who create music should be fairly compensated for their talent and hard work," SOCAN's CEO Eric Baptiste told CBC shortly before the ruling was made.
SOCAN says it is acting on behalf of consumers by collecting royalties for the lyricists, composers and music producers it represents, according to CBC.
"We believe that we are on the consumers' side because what consumers want is access to music, access to a variety music, new music not just things from the past and it's very important that people who are in this trade are compensated," Baptiste said.
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In another major copyright case of the day, the country's top court concluded that Canadian teachers do not infringe on Canada's copyright laws by photocopying materials for their students. The Montreal Gazette reports the decision will likely have a major financial impact on Canadian educational institutions that had to pay millions to reproduce materials every year.