Fair Dealing for the Purpose of Education: York University v The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency

Pascale Chapdelaine, Associate Professor, Windsor Law


In York University v The Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (“Access Copyright”) (2020), the Federal Court of Appeal was confronted with two issues at the heart of ongoing debates in Canadian copyright law. First, whether tariffs of copyright collective societies are mandatory. Second, and the main focus of this case comment, how should the fair dealing doctrine be interpreted with respect to the purpose of education. The Federal Court of Appeal upheld the Federal Court decision that York University Fair dealing Guidelines did not meet the fair dealing requirements in copyright law. As this case is soon to be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada, this case comment highlights how the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal failed to consider important contextual elements of York University Guidelines that might have led to different conclusions. It provides some guidance on how fair dealing for the purpose of education should be interpreted. While fair dealing has been characterized as a “user right” by the Supreme Court of Canada in CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada (2004) and subsequent decisions, this comment points to some of the shortcomings of fair dealing as a vehicle to promote greater access to educational materials. It concludes by highlighting the challenges that lie ahead on the application of fair dealing to educational institutions, and by broadening the debate of access to educational materials beyond the fair dealing doctrine.


Read the full case comment here