Punishment, Private Style: Statutory Damages in Canadian Copyright Law

AuthorJoão Velloso & Mistrale Goudreau
Punishment, Private Style: Statutory
Damages in Canadian Copyright Law
  &  
 : Copyright infringement is a widespread contemporary be-
haviour of commercial enterprises and private individuals. To restrain such
infringements, legislators and courts have used punitive and statutory dam-
ages to sanction infringing activities and, in doing so, have incorporated the
punitive aspects of criminal law into the private sphere without the proced-
ural guarantees generally associated with criminal law. This chapter pro-
vides a detailed analysis of the courts’ decisions on statutory damages in the
Canadian copyright context. The authors argue that such a punitive path is
fundamentally based on utilitarian and behaviourist approaches. Based on
social sciences scholarship, the authors question the eectiveness of such
approaches to reduce copyright violations (deterrence). The authors also
situate this process of private style punishment in a more general trend of
asymmetric incorporation of criminal justice norms (Legomsky, 2007) and
discuss the systemic incoherencies created by such practices.
: La violation du droit d’auteur est un comportement contem-
porain très répandu chez les entreprises commerciales et les individus. An
de mettre n aux violations, les législateurs et les tribunaux ont recouru à
des dommages punitifs et préétablis pour sanctionner les actes de contre-
façon et, ce faisant, ont incorporé les aspects punitifs du droit criminel dans
la sphère privée sans les garanties procédurales généralement associées
au droit criminel. Ce chapitre procède à une analyse détaillée des décisions
ayant accordé des dommages préétablis dans le contexte du droit d’auteur
Punishment, Private Style 269
canadien. Les auteurs soutiennent qu’une telle voie punitive se base fon-
damentalement sur des approches utilitaristes et comportementales. Se
basant sur les enseignements des sciences sociales, ils questionnent l’eca-
cité de telles approches pour freiner les violations du droit d’auteur (théorie
de la dissuasion). Les auteurs discutent de ce procédé, style de peine privée,
dans une tendance plus générale à l’incorporation asymétrique des normes
de justice criminelle (Legomsky, 2007) et montrent les incohérences systé-
miques créées par une telle pratique.
In 1997, a statutory damages regime was introduced in the Copyright Act,1
as part of the second major phase of copyright reform in Canada.2 Under
this regime, plaintis in copyright cases have the ability to elect to receive
an award of statutory damages in lieu of actual damages and prots.3 The
copyright holder may make such election at any time before nal judgment.4
The government has clearly stated the underlying reasons for the adop-
tion of the regime:
A copyright owner who commences proceedings for infringement must
prove not only the infringement, but also the losses suered as a result.
However, it is often dicult, sometimes impossible, to prove such losses
because evidence as to the extent of infringement is usually dicult and/
or expensive to nd. Statutory damages alleviate this diculty by guar-
anteeing a minimum award of damages once infringement is established.
They also ease the evidentiary burden on the plainti in proceedings for
1 RSC 1985, c C-42 [Copyright Act].
2 Phase I took place in 1988 [An Act to Amend the Copyright Act and to Amend Other Acts in
Consequence Thereof, RSC 1985, c 10 (4th Supp)] and Phase II in 1997 [An Act to Amend the
Copyright Act, SC 1997, c 24 ] [An Act to Amend the Copyright Act (1997)]. After that, the
government announced that it was embarking on a permanent process of copyright re-
form and introduced a series of bills, some of which resulted in legislative modications,
while others died on the order paper after the dissolution of Parliament: see Industry
Canada, A Framework for Copyright Reform (Ottawa: Industry Canada, 2002), online:
Industry Canada www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/crp-prda.nsf/eng/rp01101.html. The last Bill C-11,
which modies the statutory damages regime, received royal assent on 29 June 2012 and
became the Copyright Modernization Act, SC 2012, c 12.
3 An Act to Amend the Copyright Act (1997), above note 2, introducing s 38.1.
4 Ibid.

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