Mandate, Jurisdiction & Role
The mandate of the Board is defined in the Copyright Act. The Act provides that the Board intervenes in three areas, namely approving tariffs for content whose rights are managed by collective societies, the granting of licences for the use of content for which the right owners cannot be found, and arbitration in the event a collective society and users cannot agree on royalties.
The Copyright Board of Canada’s fundamental purpose is to establish fair and equitable tariffs and licences through timely and fair processes. This requirement is expressly stated in the Copyright Act: “The Board shall fix royalty and levy rates and any related terms and conditions under this Act that are fair and equitable […]”. The requirement to have timely processes is also expressly stated in the Act: “All matters before the Board shall be dealt with as informally and expeditiously as the circumstances and considerations of fairness permit […]”.
To deliver on its mandate, the Board is required to follow the principles of natural justice; base its work on solid legal and economic principles; and reflect a solid understanding of constantly evolving business models and technologies. As an administrative tribunal, the Board is also constrained by the decisions of the Federal Court of Appeal and of the Supreme Court of Canada which continuously shape the legal framework in which it operates. Finally, the Board’s decisions are subject to judicial review, which means that cases from previous years can be reversed in whole or in part and sent back to the Board.
As an independent tribunal, the Board reports on its administrative activities to Parliament through the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.
Tariffs and Royalties
The Board is mainly responsible for approving tariffs for:
- the use of musical works, sound recordings and public performances by a wide range of entities including television stations, satellite radio, online music services, hotels and restaurants;
- the use of literary works by educational institutions and governments;
- the retransmission of works embedded in distant television and radio signals, or the reproduction and public performance of a television and radio broadcast, by educational establishments for educational purposes; and
- the manufacture or importation of blank audio media for private copying purposes.
Unlocatable Copyright Owners
When the copyright owner cannot be found, it is up to the Board to rule on requests for non-exclusive licences to use a published work, a fixation of a performance, a published sound recording or a fixation of a communication signal.
Other Aspects of the Board’s Mandate
Collective societies and users of copyrights can agree on the royalties and related terms of licences for the use of works in a collective society’s repertoire. In order to protect the public interest, the Board may be required to do the following with respect to agreements:
- where there is a disagreement between the parties and on application by either party pursuant to section 71 of the Act, fix the royalties payable and/or any related terms and conditions for the use of works;
- if requested to do so by the Commissioner of Competition, examine the agreements between copyright collectives and users that have been filed with the Board by either party pursuant to section 76 of the Act.
The Board is also responsible for establishing the compensation to be paid by a copyright owner to a person for ceasing to perform protected acts, following the accession of a country to an international treaty, notably the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, the Berne Convention, the Universal Convention or the Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, and that were not previously protected.