The times they are a hopefully changing for the Copyright Board of Canada. Over a year ago, Justice William Vancise stepped down after serving his maximum two terms as chair. On June 3rd, the Board issued a press release stating that Industry Minister James Moore had finally announced the appointment of Justice Robert A. Blair as Chair, effective immediately. Will Justice Blair’s appointment revitalize and accelerate the Board’s administrative functionality, marking the beginning of an era of change?
There is reason for optimism, as Justice Blair comes highly regarded with a considerable deal of applicable experience. In November of 2003, after serving 12 years as a trial judge on the Superior Court, he was appointed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario. He has presided over matters involving almost all areas of the law, and has been involved in many copyright and intellectual property related cases over the years. His involvement in one such cases demonstrates engagement with current copyright issues: Robertson v Thomson corp (a case concerning whether a newspaper was entitled to republish freelance articles in digital media or databases without proper remuneration or the author’s consent).* He has also judged the Harold G. Fox IP Moot competition since its inception in 2008, demonstrating his eagerness to engage in contemporary IP issues.
Beyond his encouraging background and reputation, there is reason to see Justice Blair’s appointment as potential to address the Board’s known weaknesses. The Board’s Report on Plans and Priorities for 2014-2015 placed an emphasis on improving their capacity to deliver timely and fair processes and decisions. It is no secret that the prevailing modern criticism of the Copyright Board is of its operations pace, and how that pace is at odds with the need to keep up with modern technological innovation. As Co-Chair of of the Ontario Civil Justice Review and longtime advocate of Alternative Dispute Resolution, Justice Blair has a keen understanding of the importance of and methodologies behind rendering timely, effective, and fair judgments.
I look forward to seeing how this incoming era of the Board pans out. Justice Blair voiced his opinion about the significance of his role in the Government of Canada press release, saying: “The Board is a very important federal tribunal whose decisions affect the livelihood of the many Canadians involved in the creation, performance and reproduction of literary, artistic and musical works and sound recordings, and the users of those creative works.” I agree and hope it can begin to operate at a rate that aligns with the ever-evolving technological environment.
*This sentence was amended, as it has been recently pointed out by Excess Copyright: the Ontario Court of Appeal “Justice Blair” who I stated had participated in the 1989 case called R v Miles of Music Ltd was not new Chair of the Copyright Board, Justice Robert A. Blair. Rather it was Justice Duncan Gordon Blair, who sat on the Ontario Court of Appeal from 1979-1994.
Jordan Fine is the IPilogue Content/Publication Editor and a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.