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CCH Canadian Ltd v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004] 1 SCR 339


  • Whether the Law Society’s dealings with the publishers’ works “fair dealing(s)” under Sections 29 of the Copyright Act of Canada?
  • Did the Great Library authorize copyright infringement by maintaining self-service photocopiers and copies of the publishers’ works for its patrons’ use?
  • Are publishers’ materials “original works” protected under copyright?


  • For a work to be “original” within, it must be more than a mere copy of another work. At the same time, it need not be creative, in the sense of being novel or unique. What is required to attract copyright protection in the expression of an idea is an exercise of skill and judgment. This aspect of the work is the main point of difference between identifying an original work and a copied work.
  • The exercise of skill and judgment required to produce the work must not be so trivial that it could be characterized as a purely mechanical process, it should include the intellectual effort of the author.


  • Since 1954, the Law Society of Upper Canada, a statutory non-profit organization, has provided students, members, the Court, and authorized scholars with request-based photocopying services of legal articles, statutes, and decisions at its Great Library at Osgoode Hall.
  • CCH Canadian Limited, Carswell Thomson Professional Publishing, and Canada Law Book Inc., three of the biggest publishers of legal materials, sued the Law Society for copyright infringement of 11 specific works based on their activities along with asking for a permanent injunction to prevent further copying.
  • In addition to this, they asked for a remedy in the form of a declaration of the continuation of copyright in these works.
  • Law Society denies the infringement and files a counterclaim to declare that its activities did not infringe the publisher’s copyrights.
  • The Court of Appeals decided in favour of the Petitioner.


  • The Law Society’s practice was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada in a majority decision. The Court of Appeals decision was overturned.
  • The works were held to be original under the Originality Test of Copyright.
  • The Court held that the Court of Appeal erred in finding that the Law Society’s posting of the notice constitutes an express acknowledgment that copiers will be used in an illegal manner. Law Society lacks sufficient control over the works the patron chooses to copy, purposes for copying, or photocopiers themselves.
  • Six factors will be taken into account by the courts when deciding whether a dealing is “fair”: the purpose of the dealing; the character of the dealing; the amount of the dealing; the nature of the job; the alternatives to the dealing; and the effect of the dealing on the work.
  • It was held by the Supreme Court that the Law Society’s dealings with the publishers’ works were fair dealings.