INTRODUCTION

“How did this happen?” This question may indeed be the reaction to the Supreme Court of Canada decisions on fair dealing that were rendered last July 2012. The first one, SOCAN v. Bell Canada,1 decided that listen- ing to excerpts of musical works before purchasing the entire works amounted to a fair dealing for the purpose of research. In the second one, Alberta (Minister of Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright),2 the Court found that copies of works that were made at teachers’ initiative for students as complementary materials constituted acts of fair dealing for the purpose of private study. In both cases, the Court made ample use of the notion of users’ rights, a notion that it had identified in a 2004 decision, CCH Canadian, Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada,3 in order to come to its conclusions.

For any observer of the copyright scene worldwide, a decision by the Supreme Court of any country is usually perceived as an important landmark. In today’s world, when this decision touches upon the interpre- tation of exceptions to copyright law, the event is all the more news- worthy. Here, we have not only one, but two decisions that pertain to the concept of fair dealing, a concept that is pretty much as central to the overall scheme of copyright exceptions in Canadian law as its cousin fair use is in the U.S., but that has not had the same visibility as its U.S. coun- terpart. That these two decisions were rendered on the same day as three other copyright decisions by the Supreme Court makes them all the more conspicuous. The copyright pentalogy or quintet, as it is increasingly known, provides judicial confirmation of an approach to copyright that also pervades the 2012 amendments to the Canadian Copyright Act.