Copyright and Freedom of Expression: Does Ownership Still Trump Free Speech?

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Held on May 7, 2018

For more than two decades, the relationship between copyright and freedom of expression has remained a puzzling one: in the Federal Court’s most direct consideration of the matter (Cie générale des établissements Michelin - Michelin & Cie v. CAW-Canada(1997 2 FC 306, “Michelin”), freedom of expression was cast as, at best, the junior partner in any contest between speech and ownership. To some, that position seemed inconsistent with contemporary understandings of the interests being advanced by the right of free expression. Two recent cases offer an opportunity for a reconsideration of the intersection of copyright and freedom of expression: the panel will discuss the recent cases of United Airlines, Inc. v. Jeremy Cooperstock (2017 FC 616, “United”) and Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre v. Charbonneau (2017 BCCA 395, “Vancouver Aquarium”), in an effort to assess the relationship between copyright and freedom of expression

Since the Michelin decision, there have been significant developments both in copyright law and the means available for expression. In United Airlines, the Federal Court interpreted fair dealing for “parody” for the first time, and narrowly applied this user right, and in a manner consistent with Michelin found free speech is not unrestricted. Meanwhile, the BC Court of Appeal in Vancouver Aquarium examined how Charter values such as freedom of expression should be weighed against the rights of copyright owners in the context of interlocutory injunctions, and specifically when assessing the balance of convenience.


John McKeown  Goldman Sloan Nash & Haber LLP
Prof. Carys Craig  Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
Arden Beddoes Arvay Finlay LLP


Catherine Lovrics Bereskin & Parr LLP

Continuing Professional Development

This program is eligible for up to 1.5 Substantive Hour.


1.5 hr

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