Canada’s Intellectual Property Firm

Smart & Biggar intervenes before the SCC on behalf of the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia in copyright infringement class action suit against Teranet

Authored byMatt Campbell

On March 29th, Smart & Biggar intervened on behalf of the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia in the appeal of Keatley Surveying Ltd v Teranet Inc.

The intervenors were represented by partners Steven Garland and Theodore Sum, with senior associate Laura Easton, and associate Matt Campbell.

This appeal concerned a class action brought on behalf of approximately 350 land surveyors of Ontario whose plans of survey were scanned and copied into the respondent Teranet’s digital database and made available online as a part of their management of the Province of Ontario’s electronic land registry system (ELRS).

The key question on appeal involved the interpretation of section 12 of the Copyright Act, which sets out, amongst other things, when the copyright in publications will vest in the Crown. This interpretation will determine whether it is the Crown or land surveyors who own the copyright in plans of survey that are made publicly available by Teranet.

More broadly, this case will likely have implications on a number of fronts, including across all levels of Government. For example, this case will likely have an impact on (a) how Governments at all levels in Canada structure, implement and manage government-related services and programs for the public, and make use of third-party contributions in connection with those services and programs, and (b) what rights Governments have to the copyright in works that are necessary for and published by or under the direction or control of Governments in furtherance of those public services and programs.  In addition, this case will likely provide important guidance as to the circumstances under which third-party authors maintain their copyright in works published by or under the direction or control of the Government or see their copyright vest in the Government when works are published in connection with such public services and programs.

The Smart & Biggar team presented a balanced interpretation of section 12 of the Copyright Act for the Court to consider as it reaches its decision in the matter.

The preceding is intended as a timely update on Canadian intellectual property and technology law. The content is informational only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. To obtain such advice, please communicate with our offices directly.