Copyright claims are ubiquitous, covering everything from angst-filled teenage poetry to impersonal, algorithmic recreations of a Rembrandt masterpiece; from commercially lucrative musical compositions and digital code, to (potentially) priceless vampire fan fiction. This course is designed to introduce students to the universe of rules, theories, policies and controversies that characterize the Canadian copyright system which regulates monopoly interests in musical, literary, dramatic and artistic works. The course will examine questions such as: What is a copyright? When does it vest? How long does it persist? Who can be an author? And, what are the relevant rights and obligations? We will consider the relationship between the private expectation of owning one’s own work, and the public need for knowledge and information, and evaluate the legal and para-legal mechanisms through which this tension is controlled if not resolved.
The majority of the course readings will be drawn from statutory code and judicial decisions. However, since copyright law plays a substantive role in our understanding of ownership, creativity, and cooperation in society, this course will pay substantial attention to the social, moral/political and economic theories that underpin the legal regime. While most cases and readings will be focused on the Canadian legal system, we will, as relevant, consider notable divergences in, and alternatives offered by, other legal systems.
The in-person (/Zoom) classroom meetings, twice a week (2 x 2 hours), will be divided into (i) preliminary lectures (designed to review the rules and theories that students will have already studied before class), and (ii) case-study discussions (designed to rehearse applying the rules and theories on hypothetical fact situations).
Students will be expected to have read the materials listed on the syllabus before class; in-class lectures will be modest and the discussions will place substantial emphasis on problem solving (rather than the more-traditional lecture form of instruction).